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GOP to move for state takeover of CPS

Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, left, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, talk to reporters in December.. (AP File Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Republican legislative leaders are planning to propose a bill Wednesday that would allow a state-appointed board to take over the financially troubled Chicago Public School system and pave the way for it to declare bankruptcy, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

It’s a solution championed by Gov. Bruce Rauner — and rejected out of hand by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“The mayor is 100 percent opposed to Gov. Rauner’s ‘plan’ to drive CPS bankrupt,” mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said Tuesday night.

Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin are planning to hold a news conference Wednesday morning to introduce legislation pertaining to the fiscal crisis in Chicago and CPS, according to Radogno’s office.

The GOP Senate leader’s aides said no further explanation would come until the news conference.

But sources say the legislation will allow an emergency oversight board appointed by the state to take over CPS. It would also allow CPS to declare bankruptcy.

Emanuel is trying to fend off another teachers strike. The mayor last year signed off on a school budget that assumes $480 million in pension help from Springfield.

Word of Wednesday’s announcements struck a nerve with the mayor and his allies.

“The governor is defending a school funding system that is separate but unequal,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a written statement. “Our children are facing systematic discrimination. CPS represents 20 percent of state enrollment but gets just 15 percent of state funding, even though 86 percent of our children live in poverty.

“The missing 5 percent represents nearly $500 million, the exact amount of our budget gap. Our children’s futures are just as important as those in the suburbs and downstate. But the state does not value them equally.”

Quinn also decried the proposed new legislation as Rauner’s handiwork.

“If the governor was serious about helping Chicago students, he should start by proposing — and passing — a budget that fully funds education and treats CPS students like every other child in the state,” Quinn said in an emailed statement.

Emanuel has repeatedly called CPS bankruptcy a last, not first, resort.

“It’s the wrong thing to do … I would oppose that. …What is driving the financial strain … is a series of political decisions that have been made over the years. That’s what you need to fix rather than go to a judge to address your bad politics and bad choices,” the mayor said last July.

On Tuesday night, Rauner’s office referred questions to a separate news conference the governor will hold an hour after the Republican leaders announce their legislation.

Last April Rauner said bankruptcy would at least let the country’s third-largest district “restructure its debts and contracts” — including its teachers union contract. Rauner also said that Chicago and Illinois’ other municipalities should get to decide what to collectively bargain with teachers – or even whether to have unions in their school systems.

One of Rauner’s chief arguments has been that in order for the state to get back on financial footing it needs more independence from unions.

He argues that Chicago and other Illinois cities and towns should get to decide what to collectively bargain with teachers — or even whether to have unions in their school systems.

“It shouldn’t be dictated by Springfield, shouldn’t be dictated by the teachers union,” he said last April. “The schools belong to taxpayers and the parents. They should decide what gets collectively bargained. They should decide, do teachers have to join a union to teach their children? If they want that, terrific. . . . I’m not saying it has to change. But I want local control of that. Springfield shouldn’t dictate those terms.”

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick