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Schools Will Not Close Early, Rahm Vows, Despite Judge's Ruling Against CPS

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Apr 28, 2017 10:20PM

An evergreen sign in Chicago (Photo by EMENFUCKOS via the Chicagoist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

Despite a judge's ruling that sided with the state against the Chicago Public Schools, classes within the cash-strapped district will not end early this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Friday. Still, how exactly the district will be funded remains unclear.

"Kids in the city of Chicago will be in school until the end of the year," Emanuel said.

Emanuel was sharply critical of the judge’s decision—even as he and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool championed the court's recognition that Illinois' school funding system is broken. "The judge acknowledged that the funding is inequitable," Emanuel said. The mayor said that he'll continue to work to find all possible resources.

The ruling had opened up the possibility that schools could close nearly three weeks early.

Judge Franklin Valderrama tossed out a lawsuit brought by CPS against Illinois that asked the courts to rethink the way Illinois funds its schools, according to the Tribune.

Valderrama sounded sympathetic to CPS's woes if not the case they brought before him.

"The Court is not oblivious to the fiscal challenges confronting CPS," Valderrama wrote, according to the Trib. "To say that the State's current scheme of funding public education is broken is to state the obvious. Plaintiffs' Complaint, however, as constituted is not the vehicle to redress this inequity."

Valderrama said the schools didn't prove their case and noted that even if CPS won their case it could have unintended consequences, like freezing the state funding they so badly need. He threw the suit out but said the district can bring an amended complaint by May 26.

The suit claimed that the way the Illinois funds its schools is discriminatory, penalizing Chicago schools and, by extension, its minority students. The suit cites Brown v. the Board of Education, arguing that CPS shouldn't be receiving only 15% of state funding while serving 20% of the state's students. CPS students are majority black and latino, while students outside the city are predominantly white.

CPS is looking for ways to fund a pension gap. If they don't find that money from the state, the district had said it could shut down schools on June 1 instead of June 20 this year and that summer school (for everyone but special ed students) could get cancelled.

There was confusion on Friday afternoon immediately after the decision about what exactly the ruling would mean, even among CPS officials.

"We obviously heard what he had to say, but we want to read that opinion carefully," CEO Forrest Claypool told reporters following the ruling, according to the Tribune. "We have a lot of conversations that we need to have with our attorneys, as well as our financial experts — and right now, we are going to meet with them. We are also going to meet with the mayor's counsel and financial experts, and once we've done so, then we'll have more to say."

But as the clock counts down, it seems less likely that there will be a timely legal resolution. WBEZ says, "CPS lawyers could appeal, but that process likely would drag out well after the school year ends."

Meanwhile, parents were angry with the ruling:

Gov. Rauner applauded the judge's decision in a statement: "With this distraction behind us, we can move forward on working with the General Assembly to fix our state's school funding formula."