All eyes are on Springfield as cash-strapped school districts look to state lawmakers to throw them a rope before they fall off "the cliff" this fall. But some Chicago Public Schools students are wondering if Mayor Daley is doing all he can to find local resources to blunt the impact of the state cuts.
All eyes are on Springfield as cash-strapped school districts look to state lawmakers to throw them a rope before they fall off "the cliff" this fall. Illinois' schools Supt. Chris Koch drove home just how grim the situation has become when he outlined major layoffs and program cuts at a Senate appropriations committee hearing yesterday. And nowhere is the budget hole as deep as Chicago, with the district estimated to run nearly $1 billion in the red next year.
Few education advocates disagree that the state's broken school funding formula (PDF) is one factor driving the looming shortfalls. But some Chicago Public Schools students are wondering if Mayor Daley is doing all he can to find local resources to blunt the impact of the state cuts. "This is not a problem we can ignore anymore," 18-year-old John Williams said as he rallied alongside his peers at City Hall yesterday, calling on the mayor to get creative and invest local tax dollars in schools. "If you give me unlimited resources," 18-year-old Angel Bueno added, "I'll show you what I can do." Watch:
The idea that might have the most immediate potential came from teacher Jackson Potter. He suggested that mayor follow in the footsteps of neighboring Oak Forest and Orland Park and crack open his $1 billion tax increment financing (TIF) "piggy bank" to send some relief to local schools. "There's never been a discussion on how we could look creatively to use those funds to teach and learn," Potter says.
After all, there is a direct link between the the TIF and education budgets. Chicago's TIF system has grown so large that $278 million was diverted from the city's schools and into off-the-books accounts last year, which is controlled almost exclusively by the mayor. With the annual contribution growing each year, the city's TIF funds are carrying upwards of a $1 billion surplus. "Why can't we invest those surpluses in schools?" Potter asks. "Others [cities] do."
Not a bad question. Indeed, we've been asking it ourselves for sometime now.