CPS is looking at another enormous deficit for the 2011-2012 school year – under the teachers’ union contract, salaries are scheduled to rise another 4 percent, and federal stimulus money will be gone. How do you get out of that mess?
Gery Chico: When I became President of the Chicago Board of Education in 1995, the system was on the verge of financial collapse, with a projected deficit of $1.3 billion. When I left six years later, I transformed that deficit into a $344 million surplus. During my time at the Board of Education, test scores rose each year, the Central Office was reorganized and downsized and budgets were repeatedly balanced.
Under my leadership we prepared a comprehensive long-range capital improvement plan that resulted in building more than 60 new buildings and renovating more than 300 buildings.
Further, CPS’s bond ratings were reinstituted, then dramatically increased where there had not even been an investment grade prior to my leadership. I’ve done it before, and I look forward to doing it again.
Miguel del Valle: There must be a search for additional public and private funding. We must become more competitive for federal funding for our schools and school-based programs, and we must recapture TIF district funds that are currently diverted from the CPS. Administrative reductions must be made across all areas, except school personnel that work with students directly.
We must also work toward comprehensive reform of state school funding. I have a long track record of supporting comprehensive school funding reform to reduce the reliance on property taxes to fund public schools and reduce the spending disparity between rich and poor districts.
Rahm Emanuel: The current budget mess was not caused overnight; it will take creativity and resolve to get out of, with everyone sharing in the sacrifice. I believe that CPS’ focus should be solely on its core education mission, and the administrative and overhead functions must be more efficient. The city and its sister agencies will have to coordinate more closely and effectively to share joint administrative functions and co-deliver services.
I recently announced my plan to ensure accountability in the TIF program that will include closing TIFs that have served their purpose. More than half of the tax dollars siphoned off by TIFs would otherwise go to the public schools. My concerns about diverting money from schools was an important driver in the decision to reform TIFs.
Second, I will focus on partnerships that bring the city and other sister agencies – particularly libraries and the park district – into the school to more effectively co-deliver support services so that CPS can focus on its core educational mission.
Third, we must take the state to task for its role in education funding. The state’s fiscal mess is shortchanging schools across the state needs and the Governor and General Assembly must act to provide adequate assistance to schools. I will lobby Springfield aggressively to secure the funding we deserve.
Fourth, we should move toward a system where good schools have more flexibility over the resources they receive. Providing lump sum – not line item – budgets to successful schools would end the central office’s micromanagement of good teachers and leaders while ensuring every student receives his or her fair share of resources.
Finally, I helped President Obama craft and pass the Recovery Act and the teacher bill so that school districts across the country could continue to do their job amid a significant recession. As the economic downturn continues, I will push for continued federal assistance to ensure that teachers remain in the classroom and our children continue to learn.
Carol Moseley Braun: I plan to use my experience in Springfield and Washington to push for more funding from state and national revenues. As mayor, I also support making revenues generated from taxes more efficient to the schools’ operational budget.
Patrica Van Pelt-Watkins: If we need to raise revenue to keep great teachers, I think the public supports that concept because they know education is the key to our future. However, the city and state are in a budget crisis, and the first priority of our school system should be to protect the quality of education for our children. As we face these challenges, we must work with the Chicago Teachers Union to develop new and innovative funding strategies that will provide support for teachers and improve the contracting process.
William "Doc" Walls, III: Not answered.