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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Fri Jun 14, 2013

CPS' Per-Student Budgets Will Exacerbate School Inequality, Education Experts Say

The Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) new per-student budgeting system spells big cuts for some schools, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and local school officials are learning.

CPS released next year’s individual school budgets to principals last week and, according to the CTU, schools across the city are seeing 10 percent to 25 percent cuts in funding. The union and education experts predict these cuts will lead to eliminated positions and more split-level classes, among other negative outcomes.

So far, a handful of schools have reported to seeing their budgets slashed by more than one million dollars.

“What we’re going to see is a degradation of education in neighborhood public schools, which is likely to result in even a widening of the inequalities that we already have in CPS,” said Pauline Lipman, professor of educational policy studies and director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Jun 13, 2013

The Pros And Cons Of Chicago’s TIFWorks Program

Chicago's TIFWorks program provides tax increment financing (TIF) funds to help cover workforce-training costs for employers. Job trainers say the program offers much-needed resources for workforce development. But others say TIFWorks needs to be more transparent and accountable. Progress Illinois takes a closer look at the program.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Jun 12, 2013

DePaul Arena Project A 'Monstrosity,' TIF Panelists Say

Chicago's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Program is intended to take property taxes today for investments that will produce more property taxes in the future, the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky said at a TIF forum Tuesday night.

"I have no problem with the TIF program in the essence, but we don’t live in the essence. We live in Chicago, Illinois," said Joravsky, a panelist at the packed TIF Illumination Project's town hall meeting for the 50th Ward.

Joravsky said the city's TIF program has become "deranged" and blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel's recent plan to kick in $55 million in TIF funds for a new DePaul University basketball arena near McCormick Place.

The $55 million would be used to buy the current property now paying property taxes and essentially turn it into a tax-exempt property.

"It’s a complete reversal of what the whole TIF program is about,” Joravsky said at the forum, held at Devon Bank Tuesday night.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Jun 6, 2013

TIF Program Angers Bridgeport, McKinley Park Residents

Residents of Chicago's 11th Ward were outraged upon learning that $57.4 million in property tax money was sitting in their tax increment financing (TIF) districts' collective bank accounts at the end of 2011, according to data unveiled by the CivicLab.

One resident suggested at least one way that money could have been put to use at the CivicLab's TIF Illumination Project meeting Wednesday night.

Maureen Sullivan with Bridgeport Alliance said she has been pushing the city to renovate the Ramova Theater at 35th and Halsted streets for years, to no avail.

The city currently owns the property, which has been closed since 1986, Sullivan said.

“It could be a thousand-seat performance space and the largest economic generator on Halsted Street, and it's sitting there empty," Sullivan said in remarks after the meeting, held at the McKinley Park library. "And I'm so angry, because when I talk to the city, they dangle (TIF) in front of you, like 'we may be able to get you some TIF funds for this.'”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed May 22, 2013

South Side Residents Discuss School Closings, Red Line & TIFs At Englewood Meeting

Englewood residents are not yet sure what will become of their six neighborhood schools on Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) list to shut down or relocate in June.

But South Side community members at a Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) meeting Tuesday night said if the Chicago Board of Education approves CPS’ school action plan, they want all shuttered schools to become village centers for the neighborhood.

“We do not want any of our institutions closed in the community, but if they are going to close it, at least let it be reopened for something that can serve the community,” said community leader Aysha Butler with R.A.G.E.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon May 20, 2013

Education Activists Take School Closing Fight To City Hall (VIDEO)

A few hundred education activists kicked off the last day of the Chicago Teachers Union's three-day march against school closings at William J. & Charles H. Mayo Elementary School Monday morning. Education activists also delivered a petition calling for a moratorium on school closings to City Hall this afternoon. Progress Illinois was there for the actions. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Tue May 14, 2013

Chicago's 4th Ward Residents Call For More TIF Transparency, Accountability At Town Hall Meeting

The 11 tax increment financing, or TIF, districts in the 4th Ward took $5.6 million in property taxes from those living within the boundaries in 2011, the CivicLab revealed at TIF town hall meeting Monday night.

Four of those districts fall nearly 100 percent inside of the ward and had extracted about $42 million from property taxpayers since the start of the TIF program back in 1986 through 2011, said Tom Tresser, co-founder of the CivicLab and leader of the of volunteer-based TIF Illumination Project.

Monday’s TIF town hall was the CivicLab’s eighth community meeting. Tresser and other “TIF illuminators” are holding meetings across the city in an effort to raise awareness about Chicago’s economic development program. The CivicLab's project sets out to find what wards are TIF "winners" or "losers."

Craig Coleman, a 10-year resident of the 4th Ward, said Monday night was the first time he heard exactly how much property tax dollars local residents had kicked into the program. He raised concerns about the TIF program’s lack of accountability and transparency.

“I think it’s money off the books that should be put back on the books,” Coleman said in remarks after the meeting, held at Room 43 in Kenwood. “How do you change it, and does your alderman control this or ... who controls the law to change this? When it’s time for the mayoral elections, does it get swept under the rug like everything else?”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon May 6, 2013

Englewood Residents Question TIF Program, Call For More Community Mobilization At Town Hall Meeting

Property taxpayers in Englewood were furious upon learning at a town hall meeting Saturday that their tax dollars had contributed at least $44 million to the Englewood Neighborhood Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District since it rolled out in 2001. According to data from the CivicLab's TIF Illumination Project, some $44 million of taxpayer dollars had funneled to the TIF district between 2001 and 2011.

In 2011 alone, the TIF district siphoned $5 million from property taxpayers in the area, which would have normally gone to local units of government such as schools and parks, according to the CivicLab. 

“The original concept is that (TIFs are) designed to have an impact on blighted areas, and just looking out the window, we know that a blighted area is all around us,” CivicLab's Bill Drew said at the TIF discussion, held at the Chicago Public Library's Hiram Kelly Branch.