RYH Statements at CPS FY17 Budget Hearings

Budget hearings were sparsely attended this year, with the operating budget hearings held downtown during daytime hours instead of in the community in the evening, as done in past years.

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Nearly two dozen teachers, parents and education activists testified during a pair of public hearings Friday on Chicago Public Schools' proposed 2017 budget. (Matt Masterson/Chicago Tonight)

RYH spoke at all 3 hearings. Here are the testimonies:

Wendy Katten, Raise Your Hand Director, at the CPS FY17 Operational Budget Hearing, August 19, 2016

My name is Wendy Katten and I’m speaking on behalf of RYH for IL Public Education.

Despite CPS claiming no cuts to the classroom this year, district schools have been cut by $179 million and student-based budgeting was decreased by 7% from fall 2015. In 2012 when SBB was piloted at around 80 schools, the rate was $4,6 roughly $500 per student higher than it is now.

We’ve been asking the Board to examine tens of millions of dollars in questionable contracts since last summer, but there’s been no response. Contract spending is cut by far less in the FY2017 budget than salaries (1.5% v 9% respectively). And contracts in the Assessment Department are set to increase by 17% ($4.5M spent in FY16 v $5.4M for FY17). New central department offices like personalized learning have been opened.

CPS continues to open new schools, putting out charter RFPs and opening new selective high schools, diluting resources in existing schools for the kids who can’t test or lottery in. Check out the school budgets online for schools like Fenger, Harlan, Wells, Manley and you’ll see what I mean. Yesterday at the truth in taxation hearing, Pres Clark said he supports the way TIF dollars are being used and claimed all dollars not going back to CPS are tied up. This is simply not true. If it were, no new project could be approved. Obama Prep is one of many projects where dollars are not truly encumbered, and an example of a project that fuels inequality and diverts scarce dollars from struggling neighborhood high schools.

For years we’ve been watching the BOE in effect feed a portion of its children a well-balanced nutritious meal while (GOT CUT OFF HERE at 2 MINUTE MARK) near-starving another portion of its students, usually those who have no access and live in concentrated poverty. Some may call this choice- we call it neglect. Neighborhood high schools took a hit of 8% this year following 3 years of losses at 10-12%.

We need to ramp up the call for sustainable funding from the state, and our group will continue to do our part on this, but this Board should do more to gain TIF dollars from the city, put sunshine on some of your contacts, and stop approving projects that fuel our tiered, inequitable system.

Mary Hughes, Raise Your Hand Board Member, at the CPS FY17 Operational Budget Hearing, August 19, 2016

My name is Mary Hughes from 19th Ward Parents for Special Education and Raise Your Hand.

Contrary to CPS’s talking points, Special Education funding has been cut -- AGAIN. The funding this year has little to do with what is legally mandated in IEP’s across the district. The public has been told “the funding is the same as last year, minus 4% for an 'appeals fund'”. But, last year, if you will recall, after cutting hundreds of paraprofessional and teaching positions, you admitted you used a flawed staffing formula for special ed and, well into the school year, most of those positions were restored and, upon appeal, 147-more legally-mandated positions were added, though not all those positions were staffed, because this reversal occurred well into the school year, leaving hundreds of special ed positions unfilled because people found jobs elsewhere.

IEP’s are specific and the needs of the student are dictated by the IEP team who devote time, resources and expertise to determine what appropriate supports are needed for each individual child. Now, this year, CPS comes in and says, hey schools, we’ll give you the same dollar amount for special ed as your school had last year (when last year’s kids were denied appropriate staffing for months or even the entire school year due to last year’s flawed formula fiasco). So now, schools get the same special ed dollar amount as last year, minus the 4% appeals fund and Principals who do not have the funding to meet the legally-mandated staffing needs for their students (students who may or may not have the same needs as last year’s group of students, by the way) are being told that they have to use general education funds to fund special education. This creates a lose-lose situation for Principals who have to meet the needs of students with special needs by taking resources from the larger gened population.

Neither Gened or Special Ed is adequately funded as it is. Throwing the problem of inadequate yet legally-mandated special ed funding in the laps of Principals under the guise of “autonomy” is simply the CPS Board and upper-level management shirking responsibility for meeting the needs of the special education population by putting the funding for it on the backs of the gened population. Please stop creating a system that pits the needs of typically-functioning students against the needs of students who have disabilities.

Chris Ball, RYH Board Member, at the Truth in Taxation hearing, August 18, 2016

My name is Christopher Ball and I am speaking on behalf of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education.

The amount of TIF surplus allotted to CPS for FY17 is inadequate in the face of CPS’s severe fiscal straits and recurring TIF balances in excess of $1 billion. The FY 2017 budgeted amount is $30 million below the amount of new money budgeted in FY16, and only $7.5 million above the FY15 level.

This low level is puzzling, to say the least, because in 2015, CPS’s budget heralded the mayor’s suspension of downtown TIF spending. This decision was supposed to yield at least $125 million new surplus amounts for CPS over five years. Why, then, is the TIF surplus so low?

Property taxes for CPS are increasing. The state legislature has allowed CPS to levy another $250 million above the PTELL cap. This is needed to stabilize CPS finances. But over $230 million in revenue that would otherwise have gone to CPS was collected by TIFs in 2014 tax year. CPS should request and should be much more each year in TIF surplus revenue.

CPS Surplus TIF Revenue
Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015 2014
Budgeted $32.5 $87.2 $25.0 $20.0
New $ $32.5 $62.2 $25.0 $20.1
Actual N.A. $103.5 $6.3 N.A.
Amount in millions

Source: CPS Budget Books

TIF Balances & Expenditures
Fiscal Year 2014 2013 2012 2011
Ending Balance $1,459.3 $1,718.6 $1,714.6 $1,671.5
Expenditures -$634.2 -$378.3 -$338.2 -$328.2
Amount in millions

Source: City of Chicago Data Portal

Jennie Biggs, RYH Board Member, at the FY17 Capital Budget Hearing, August 17, 2016

I am Jennie Biggs, a CPS Parent and a Board Member of IL RYH, a citywide parents organization.

We hear from parents and educators across the city who continually ask:
what is the overall CPS plan- both for CPS education policy & CPS educational facilities?

I’m here tonight to comment on the latter.

A law was passed in 2011 which required CPS to have a 10-Year Educational Facilities Master Plan. In September of 2013, this Plan was approved and, supposedly, implemented. Before the Plan was written and even now, the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force- all volunteers- hosts meetings to gather input on the Plan and on actual CPS facilities AND they document best practices in terms of educational facilities.

Right now, we are in the period of time when this 10-Year Educational Facilities Master Plan is to be updated via community input and CPS gathering info on each facility. The Preliminary Draft of the Plan is posted and available to the public.

The existence of this Master Plan needs to be put in the record of this hearing. CPS should be using this as a way to engage with communities across Chicago to determine true facilities needs AND to develop an actual, honest, long term, overarching facilities plan that would drive capital spending from here on out.
Findings within the preliminary, updated Plan show that there are many capital needs- as well as maintenance and repair- for existing schools which should take priority over other capital spending. Speak to any CPS parent, educator, or engineer. They will show you and/or itemize the investment needed within each of our buildings where our children learn.

Further, there needs to be a transparent, more equitable process for determining capital spending.

We are in a financial crisis. Chicago does not need another selective enrollment high school that serves the few while redirecting scarce resources from the many. Cancel Obama Prep. Cancelling the Obama Prep project would free up $60M in TIF funds, and $30M of that could then be directed back to the taxing body it was withheld from, CPS.

The Board of Ed should work with the city & demand the highest TIF surplus declaration possible.