Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration is getting ready for a potential state takeover of the cash-strapped Chicago public school system.
"The state's going to be ready to step in and take action," the governor told reporters Tuesday.
Rauner added that Illinois State Board of Education officials have been asked to begin their search for an interim Chicago Public Schools (CPS) superintendent.
"I asked our administration. I believe it's coming. I believe a state takeover is appropriate," the governor stated.
Last month, Illinois Republican legislative leaders proposed a plan to let an "independent authority" established by the Illinois State Board of Education take over CPS. The GOP legislative leaders are also weighing a plan to give CPS the ability to declare bankruptcy.
CPS' budget has a $480 million hole. District officials have been seeking to close that gap with pension assistance from the state, which has not passed a budget for the current financial year, which began July 1.
CPS is also in the midst of labor talks with the Chicago Teachers Union, whose bargaining team on Monday shot down a four-year contract offer from the district.
"Without some real movement on the revenue problems, we can't trust that they will honor any words offered in a four-year contract deal," CTU President Karen Lewis said in a Monday statement announcing that CPS' contract offer had been rejected.
Rauner weighed in on the contract rejection Tuesday.
"I hope the rejection by the Chicago Teachers Union is a wake up call for the mayor and the taxpayers in Chicago and around the state," the governor stated. "The mayor proposed an unaffordable contract. It was unaffordable. It was more kicking the can and just getting by and he was pushing off the day of reckoning and the teacher's union still rejected that."
In other CPS news, schools chief Forrest Claypool announced Tuesday that the district is proposing school budget cuts totaling $100 million. Of that amount, $50 million would come from teacher layoffs.
"We would be thrilled to rescind it if we get a deal," Claypool told reporters of the planned budget cuts. "We really believe the contract we've put into place is the foundation of an agreement."
Claypool told the union about the proposed budget cuts, which will take effect in 30 days, in a letter sent earlier on Tuesday. The letter also said CPS plans to eliminate the district's pension pickup for teachers in an effort to produce annual savings of $130 million.
In a media statement, the union called the district's announcement of budget cuts "an act of intimidation and bullying because teachers refused to accept a flawed contract offer."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Lewis described CPS' move as "the latest act of war." Teachers plan to protest Thursday afternoon against the proposed layoffs and cuts. They are expected to march from the Bank of America building, at 135 S. LaSalle St., to City Hall.
UPDATE 1 (5:18 p.m.): Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) swatted down Rauner's talk of a state takeover of CPS.
"I thought we'd already addressed this," Cullerton said via statement. "The law doesn't allow him to do that. So it's not going to happen."
UPDATE 2 (5:49 p.m.): Chicago 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza released a statement firing back at Claypool for his proposed cuts, saying schools in her ward "are already overcrowded and underfunded."
Chicago Public School's CEO (Forrest) Claypool continues to make decisions that affect the city's most vulnerable students, specifically our diverse learner population and our bilingual students. Schools in our ward are already overcrowded and underfunded. The students and teachers of the city of Chicago deserve better. Mr. Claypool looks like he's taking his toys and going home because CPS teachers have rejected the proposed CPS contract.
Intimidation tactics never produce positive outcomes. We cannot continue to appoint administrators who are out of touch and disconnected from the lives of the working families who attend Chicago Public Schools. This again highlights the need for an elected school board accountable to students and parents. Our students are the ones that lose when unelected bureaucrats make decisions on behalf of educators.
Our schools cannot afford any more cuts to our classrooms. Our city cannot continue on this pathway to failure if CPS does not prioritize students and teachers. We will continue to fight against the unjust decisions made by the Board of Education to ensure that every student gets the education they deserve.