In response to an outstanding $862 million shortfall, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has extended its budget year to fourteen months in order to be able to utilize funds that will be received in the next fiscal year in this year’s budget. As a result, the anticipated deficit for the next fiscal year will exceed $1 billion.
District officials blame inadequate state funding and rapidly rising pension obligations for this situation. Last year, Chicago laid off 3,000 teachers and closed 50 schools. Funding for central operations has been cut by $700 million since 2011. The current budget increased funding by $400 million or 3%. The board of education agreed to do that despite the deficit because, as board President David Vitale, put it, they were unwilling to balance the budget “on the back of teachers and kids this year.”
Despite this year’s small increase and this mounting debt, the district’s students do not appear to be receiving the “high quality” education guaranteed to them by the state’s constitution. Two attempts to enforce students’ constitutional rights in this regard have been rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court, on separation of powers grounds, without any review of the actual evidence regarding the quality of education students are receiving. Illinois ranks 47th among the 50 states in its per pupil spending and CPS’ current level of state aid is below FY08 levels. Per pupil spending in Chicago is less than 60% of the amount spent in states like New York, where lawsuits have resulted in judicial rulings to enforce students’ constitutional rights. (According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago spent $11,391 per student in fiscal year 2011, while New York spent $19,770.)