Editorial: With today’s CPS crisis averted, bring on tomorrow’s crisis

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The Chicago Public Schools averted its latest crisis on Tuesday by making good on a $634 million pension commitment, due by midnight on Tuesday.

A relief, to be sure. But no one should kid themselves about what lies ahead.


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As June turns to July, we’ll see more crises roiling both CPS and the state.

On Tuesday evening, CPS’ interim CEO said the school system made the payment by borrowing money, which will result in $200 million in cuts. There will be up to 1,400 layoffs, beginning Wednesday.

“CPS could not make the payment and keep cuts away from the classroom, so while school will start on time, our classrooms will be impacted,” CEO Jesse Ruiz said while blaming Springfield’s failure to “address CPS’ financial crisis.” Emanuel is expected to unveil “a comprehensive plan that lays out a framework for moving forward” on Wednesday, sources told the Sun-Times.

Emanuel made clear earlier on Tuesday that schools will suffer, citing a set of “decisions and choices” that he described as “upside-down.”“School will start, but our ability to hold the impact of finances away from the classroom — that’s gonna change … Our ability to kind of hold or put a wall down where those finances did not impact is coming to a breaking point,” the mayor said.

Emanuel and CPS must let the public know exactly where the money came from and who is paying the price. The public and quarreling state leaders need to know just how deep is CPS’ wound. If that, combined with devastating social service and other government cuts, doesn’t inspire agreement on a long-term budget and revenue solution, we’re not sure what will.

With Tuesday’s payment, CPS can keep its doors open on Wednesday and assure parents of an on-time school opening in September.

But don’t bank on much more than that.

As the political showdown in Springfield continues — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pro-business agenda pitted against House Speaker Michael Madigan’s quest to pass a clean budget with no pro-business strings attached  — an ugly war of attrition will continue collecting casualties.

The state’s fiscal year begins on Wednesday with no budget in place, except for funding for education. Legislators on Wednesday will consider a one-month, $2.3 billion emergency budget for critical services that would avert the state’s immediate crisis. But like with the CPS, it just delays the implosion. The one-month budget is advanced by Democrats. Republicans lawmakers and the governor easily could torpedo it.

Madigan on Tuesday said legislators would be in “in continuous session all summer.”  If Tuesday is any guide, the public can expect more of the same — a state and city lurching from one crisis to another.

Speaker Madigan and Gov. Rauner know Illinois deserves better. Reaching an agreement that works for all and keeps major cuts out of Chicago classrooms is the only long-term solution. 

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