When a big urban school district must cut school days, punishing children, just because state funding is so uncertain, that state has really gone over to the dark side.
But there’s Illinois for you.
As reported Thursday, the Chicago Board of Education, which oversees the state’s largest school district, is contemplating cutting back the number of days kids are in school to help close a $215 million budget gap. That $215 million, to pay teacher pensions, could be coming from the state any day now, of course, or maybe never — who really knows? And that’s the problem. It is included in a bipartisan budget deal that is long overdue and extremely uncertain.
This should surprise nobody. In the last 18 months, the state’s budget stalemate has taken a tragic toll on Illinois. Disabled and elderly residents have been deprived of care. College students have dropped out of school because of the loss of tuition grants. People are moving out of the state by the tens of thousands.
But there is something particularly offensive about putting education for poor kids on the line, especially given the effort Chicago made five years ago to lengthen the school year — and the positive results that have followed.
Our plea to the state Legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner: Don’t let it happen. Work even harder on that “grand bargain” budget deal. And, if the state fails to come through, we would hope the Board of Education can find another way.
The Rev. Michael Garanzini, a Chicago Board of Education member, asked about the possibility of shortening the school year Wednesday at the board’s meeting. “Absolutely,” a Chicago Public Schools administrator responded.
CPS has four more days on its school calendar than the 176 the Illinois State Board of Education requires, the Sun-Times Lauren FitzPatrick reported. CPS could cut four days and still be eligible for all of its allotted state funding. The district could save roughly $12 million a day if it ended the school year early.
In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel succeeded in extending the school year by 10 days. The district’s graduation rates, while not on par with wealthier suburban districts, have improved every year since 2006.
CPS, which is halfway to closing a separate $300 million budget gap, is running out of options to solve its budget woes, and the horrible politics of Springfield only exacerbate the problem. As it is, state lawmakers have a long history of penalizing poor kids in Illinois with a school funding formula that shortchanges kids living in poverty.
CPS brought a lot of its problems on itself through decades of poor management. The state is by no means entirely to blame.
But one lousy parent doesn’t excuse another lousy parent.
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