Illinois Republican leaders are expected to introduce legislation that would allow the state to take over the Chicago public school system, according to reports.
If passed, the legislation could lead to the district filing for bankruptcy, according to Crain's Chicago Business. State Republican leaders are scheduled to hold a press conference Wednesday morning to announce the plan, which would likely be opposed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel considering his previous statements against the cash-strapped school district filing for bankruptcy.
"It's the wrong thing to do ... I would oppose that. ...What is driving the financial strain ... is a series of political decisions that have been made over the years. That's what you need to fix rather than go to a judge to address your bad politics and bad choices," Emanuel said over the summer.
The mayor's budget called for $480 million in pension assistance from the state, which has not passed a budget for the current financial year, which began July 1.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is reportedly in support of the GOP bill, having said last year that a bankruptcy would allow for the district to "restructure its debts and contracts." Rauner is expected to hold his own press conference Wednesday morning following the Republican leader's announcement, the Sun-Times reported.
But former governor Pat Quinn is critical of the notion of a state CPS takeover.
"If the governor was serious about helping Chicago students, he should start by proposing -- and passing -- a budget that fully funds education and treats CPS students like every other child in the state," said Quinn, who blasted Rauner over his handling of the state's finances last week in an interview with Progress Illinois.
UPDATE 1 (10:11 p.m.): Emanuel is reportedly fully against the plan that is being introduced by Republican leaders Wednesday morning.
"The mayor is 100 percent opposed to Gov. Rauner's 'plan' to drive CPS bankrupt," mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn told the Sun-Times Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool also voiced his opposition to the proposal:
The governor is defending a school funding system that is separate but unequal. Our children are facing systematic discrimination. CPS represents 20 percent of state enrollment but gets just 15 percent of state funding, even though 86 percent of our children live in poverty.
The missing 5 percent represents nearly $500 million, the exact amount of our budget gap. Our children's futures are just as important as those in the suburbs and downstate. But the state does not value them equally.
UPDATE 2 (1/20/16 11:57 a.m.): Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released details of their proposal for CPS Wednesday morning.
Their plan would let an "independent authority" established by the Illinois State Board of Education take over Chicago's school system. The GOP legislative leaders are also weighing a plan to give CPS, as well as the city of Chicago, the ability to declare bankruptcy.
"We don't come to this position lightly," Radogno was quoted as saying in a news release. "But the track record of Chicago and its public school system is abysmal. Despite a $600 million financial advantage provided by the state, Chicago continues to dig their financial hole deeper. It is constant crisis. The result always ends up a plea for more state money for Chicago at the expense of school districts in our suburban and downstate communities. It has to end. Taxpayers and school children deserve better. This is a lifeline."
Durkin added: "This is not a bailout. Taxpayers statewide should not and will not be held responsible for historically wrong decisions made by Chicago politicians."
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9) and state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) commented on the Republican legislative leaders' proposal during an unrelated press event.
Schakowsky she believes the plan is "yet another example" of "the war on unions."
If CPS is allowed to declare bankruptcy, Schakowsky said, "the union contracts that are in place right now could disappear."
"I think that is clearly one of the objectives of the governor and the supporters of his plan, the Republicans in the legislature, to destroy the Chicago Teachers Union and to take away the collective bargaining rights of those teachers and to turn it over, perhaps, to municipalities or just get rid of it altogether," she said.
In raising concerns about the idea of putting CPS under the control of a state-created independent authority, Harris brought up the water crisis in Flint, which began after the state of Michigan's takeover of the city.
"We saw the governor of Michigan yesterday get up in front his general assembly for the Michigan State of the State message and apologize over and over again to the people of Flint and the people of Michigan how a state takeover of the water supply and privatizing it and trying to cut costs and do things on the cheap has poisoned generations of families in Flint, Michigan. So, there's problems here," Harris said. "Turning the board of ed over to a group of state bureaucrats who are unknown to us, who are appointed by the secretary of education and accountable to really no one, is not a really good solution. And it doesn't solve the financial problems of the city of Chicago and the public schools."
CPS parents with the Raise Your Hand education coalition also spoke out Wednesday morning against the proposal.
"Back in 2012, Governor Rauner was on Chicago Tonight, and he said that if it were up to him, he would blow up the district into small networks of privatized schools that compete for resources, and now it seems that he's going to use this opportunity, and we as parents are going to fight back to make sure that this vision does not come true," Raise Your Hand member Jennie Biggs told Progress Illinois. "There is not one thing about this plan that aligns to any research or evidence about high-quality public education. Also, when we're talking about competing for resources, we have scarce resources to being with. We have no faith this is coming with any additional resources for our schools, and we have no faith that this will result in equitable ... funding in the end. It sounds like this could put us in a worse situation than we're in right now."