The Chicago Board of Education is giving itself the green light to issue up to $840 million dollars in school construction bonds.
It’s not clear what specific projects the borrowed money will be spent on.
In August, the district released a $338 million spending plan for repairs, building additions and new schools. At the time, officials said they would announce additional projects at a later date.
This week, Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Emily Bittner said they would announce more construction projects after the bond sale. The revenue from the city’s newly enacted Capital Improvement Tax will be used to pay back bondholders.
The move is frustrating for parents like Deb Hass, who have advocated for years for a more transparent planning process around school construction.
“This is money to be borrowed despite CPS having released no plan,” Hass said at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. “We, the parents, the public, desperately want more than a vision. We want a facilities plan and we want community participation in its creation.”
Hass noted better facility planning is especially needed in light of this year’s steep enrollment decline. There are 11,000 fewer students in CPS this year.
But several groups of parents who spoke at the board meeting Wednesday talked about school facility issues in their neighborhoods. Parents from Ebinger Elementary complained of overcrowding at their school. The chairman of the Local School Council at Decatur Classical School also spoke about children eating lunch at their desks and getting special education services in hallways.
Decatur had hoped to move to a building in Rogers Park under a proposal by Ald. Joe Moore, 49th Ward, that would’ve merged Field school with nearby Kilmer, allowing Decatur to move into the Field building. After pushback from parents at Field, the plan was shelved.
WBEZ obtained a planning list this year, and about a third of the projects on it have been announced. It’s not clear how many of the projects listed are still being considered.
Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @wbezeducation.