Skip to main content

Morning Shift

Former U.S. Education Secretary Criticizes State Over CPS Budget Problems

Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. said the only way the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools can find a financial foothold is if the state provides more money. 

“Chicago, in many ways, is bearing the burden of an unwillingness on the part of the state to put in the revenue that’s needed, and that’s not a new problem -- that’s a decades old problem,” King told Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia. “I don’t think you’re going to get out of this situation just by cutting. You’re not going to cut your way to quality education in Chicago or in the state. The state’s going to have to generate the revenue.”

King, who headed the U.S. Department of Education during President Barack Obama’s final year in the White House, now serves as president and CEO of the Education Trust, an advocacy group. Appearing on Morning Shift, King discussed how much responsibility CPS has for its budget woes, the budget priorities of President Donald Trump, and current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

Here are some interview highlights. 

On CPS’ ongoing financial problems

Tony Sarabia: What’s the district’s responsibility?

John King Jr.: The district has to make sure they’re efficient. There’s districts around the country that have done analyses of how much central office staff they have, whether there are better ways to manage transportation or food service and so forth. But the margins on those efficiency gains are not large enough to make the difference with the kind of revenue gaps that we’re seeing.

And the other challenge — Chicago certainly dealt with this, and the mayor dealt with this, and it had a big political cost for him. He took on the fact that there are many schools that are under enrolled, and rightsizing of the number of schools is a critical step that communities have to take.

But at the end of the day, how Chicago gets out of this situation is increased revenue, and that’s on the state.

On how CPS’ financial problems could affect the city’s charter school market

King: A lot depends on the specifics of the individual community. Here in Chicago, given the budget constraints, the declining enrollment in many neighborhoods, it’s not surprising the demand for charter growth has slowed

I also think supply is a challenge. Given the economic conditions, the budget constraints, I think you’re seeing fewer national charter organizations looking at Chicago as a place to come because they’re worried about, “Will there be space? Will there be the right level of per pupil funding to make for a successful school?”

On what to expect for education under DeVos

King: You can’t help but look at this budget and see an assault on the American dream. The idea that we’d be better off if we had fewer after-school and summer programs, less professional development for teachers — and it was harder to go to college. That’s preposterous. At the same time, I look to Congress to stand up and protect public education.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Press the “play” button above to hear the entire segment.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.

CLOSE X