Chicago Public Schools officials are bracing for another year of staggering budget deficits. For the third year in a row, CPS says it could be facing a $700 million budget gap that will force painful cuts.
According to Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley, the deficit is driven by debt service and pension payments that ballooned when the pension fund lost a third of its value in 2008.
Pension relief enacted in Springfield and federal stimulus funds helped plug holes in the past, but Cawley said that’s not on the horizon now.
"This structural situation we’re in isn’t brand new, it’s just somebody rode to the rescue for us in the past. And sadly, we don’t see anybody riding to our rescue this year. Or next year," he said.
At the same time, Cawley said the district cannot abandon its mission of educating children, and it can’t stop innovating. CPS will move forward with a longer school day and new high school options.
Cawley said the school district will release the budget nearly two months earlier this year than it has in recent years, in part to give the public time to comment on proposals.
The Chicago Teachers Union issued a statement accusing CPS of "playing hide and go seek with budget numbers." The union said the district’s budget projections have lacked credibility for a decade.