On Friday, CPS’s former CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, was sentenced to 4 ½ years of prison for her role in a bribery and kickback scheme that cost Chicago’s taxpayers over $23 million. It is important to understand that she engaged in this scheme after earning hundreds of thousands of dollars first as an education consultant with the district, and then as Mayor Emanuel’s handpicked CEO. This is important context to remember as, elsewhere in the city, a judge ruled that CPS’s lawsuit against the state for discrimination in how it funds schools, cannot move forward.
After stating for months that he would close schools early if the state did not cover the district’s budgeted deficit, the Mayor finally declared that the district would not close early. It is evident the district’s financial problems predate this current leadership, but we should not forget that the Mayor, his handpicked school CEOs, and his handpicked Board of Education, have made the situation far worse. The Mayor has complete control over the district. It was Mayor Emanuel’s judgement that selected Barbara Byrd-Bennet as CEO and neglected to address her corruption. It was with this same judgement that he left the school year in limbo for the past two months.
Although it is good that the Mayor is no longer threatening to end the school year early, our communities are concerned that he will balance CPS’s budget with more cuts and layoffs. These cuts would come after cruel mid-year cuts that hit low-income black and brown schools the hardest, after the Mayor refused to work with aldermen to find viable local revenue for the schools. If Emanuel is serious about remedying CPS’s financial problems, he must prioritize our children over expensive new development and open new, local, and sustainable sources of revenue for the schools. He must listen to families and students demanding an elected school board to keep our schools accountable to us. Our schools are centers of learning, community development, and violence prevention. Schools are anchors of trust and peace in our neighborhoods and should be respected as such. Further cuts to balance the budget hurt our families, communities, and the entire city. The Mayor and the rest of the CPS leadership should listen to our demands for sensible local revenue that places our children’s education first.
Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
Chicago Teachers Union
Grassroots Education Movement (GEM)
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
Northside Action for Justice
Parents 4 Teachers
Raise Your Hand
United Working Families