Civic Federation Report Reveals What We Already Know About CPS Finances

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 22, 2013 6:00PM

2013_4_2_cps.jpg.jpg

Budget watchdog group The Civic Federation released an 83-page analysis of Chicago Public Schools’ FY 2014 budget and came to the conclusion everyone else, including CPS, seems to have reached—the school district’s finances are a shameful mess brought about by a lack of long-term strategy and preparation.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall laid much of the blame for CPS’ budget tumbleweed on the lack of pension reform in Illinois and said CPS should have been proactive in lobbying for reform. “The District knew this budget crisis was coming and should have been aggressively advocating for their own pension reform proposal tied to a long-term financial plan to stabilize their budget,” Msall said. “Silence on these critical issues is a grave disservice to the District’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.”

After years of pension payment relief between the 2011 and 2013 fiscal years, CPS faces a $404 million increase in its required pension contribution in FY2014. Funding of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund fell from 81.2 percent funded in FY2003 to 54.5 percent in FY2012.

CPS’ proposed budget closes a $977 million deficit by completely draining its unrestricted reserves and tapping into some previously off-limits restricted funds. Msall told the Sun-Times CPS “has not articulated on what they want on pension reform or what would be reasonable.”

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll objected slightly to that notion and told WBEZ the district supports reforms similar to ones proposed in Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s stalled SB1 bill which promoted increasing employee contributions, placing a hold on cost of living adjustments and raising the retirement age. (Coincidentally, these are also steps advocated by the Civic Federation.)

“We will continue to rigorously push for pension reform as we did last session and hope that union leadership will come to the table willing to support the kinds of reforms necessary to provide significant financial relief for our schools,” Carroll said in an email to WBEZ.

Other proposals suggested by Msall included receiving consistent financial reports from the city’s privately operated charter schools, publishing more personnel data, and at least a 10-day notice for the public to review the budget before holding hearings. CPS revealed its budget six days before holding hearings.

The full report is below.

2014 Chicago Public Schools Budget Analysis by Chicagoist