As Chicago Public Schools touted its new budget, which it says cuts nonessential spending, files showing how much it has paid to a long list of vendors each fiscal year for the last decade have disappeared from the website.
And the inspector general of Chicago Public schools confirmed Tuesday he’s investigating.
Inspector General Nicholas Schuler confirmed his office is looking into the matter. He would not provide further details.
Since at least the mid-2000s, CPS has published a Supplier Report that was regularly updated, showing the name, address and total paid to each of its vendors, whether or not that vendor had a formal contract with the Board of Education. The current year had a date stamp at the bottom showing the last update.
On Tuesday, none of the links to the sites worked.
Cassie Creswell of the parent group Raise Your Hand noticed that the sites were down Friday when she made a routine check, but they were visible on July 28.
“I see that site all the time to look up various companies,” she said. “You can never tell with CPS whether it’s weird random incompetence [or] whether it’s someone trying to hide anything.”
At recent Board of Ed meetings, Raise Your Hand members have cited spending they found on these sites as examples of what they thought the cash-strapped district could cut.
Creswell said that even if CPS thought it didn’t have to post the information anymore, why wouldn’t it just stop updating and leave existing numbers up?
“There’s no reason why they wouldn’t provide this information. Every dollar matters right now,” she said. “To not be transparent on what you’re spending on right now is so ridiculous.”
CPS has just laid off more than 1,000 people, saying it’s cutting all nonessential spending, while begging Springfield for $480 million in pension help. More layoffs and borrowing are expected if those pension changes — which could help plug the $5.7 billion operating budget — don’t happen, officials have said.
CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said that the vendor lists were removed last year from CPS’ revamped website and never relinked. The information remained accessible through Web bookmarks but wasn’t being maintained, he said.
“Chicago Public Schools is committed to a culture of transparency, especially when it comes to spending taxpayer money on contracts,” he said. “CPS is taking action to upload the current information to the website as soon as possible.”