Chicago Board of Education members got grilled over the district's questionable bond deals at a raucous school board meeting Wednesday evening.
It was the first school board meeting since the Chicago Tribunepublished a series of reports on the schools district's controversial borrowing decisions. The newspaper's analysis showed that between 2003 and 2007, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) entered into auction-rate bond and interest-rate swap agreements with financial institutions that could cost at least $100 million more over the life of the contracts than traditional borrowing methods would have.
In light of the Tribune's investigation, mayoral candidate Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who attended the school board meeting, introduced a city council resolution last week with his Progressive Reform Caucus colleagues demanding hearings into the "current borrowing practices of the Chicago Public Schools." The council's education committee is expected to hold a hearing on the matter, though a date has yet to be determined.
"We closed over 50 schools supposedly to help save the budget, but meanwhile we lost more than $100 million gambling on Wall Street," Fioretti said at the school board meeting, held at George Westinghouse College Preparatory High School. "That's $100 million that could have been used to save some of these schools, pay our teachers, provide resources to our struggling schools and more."
The Chicago City Council's Progressive Reform Caucus has joined the call for an end to the interest-rate swap agreements the city and Chicago Public Schools have with banks and private investment firms, including Bank of America and Loop Capital.