CPS says shorter school year possible absent favorable ruling in funding suit

Chicago Public Schools could be forced to end its school year about two weeks early and cut some summer school programs if there isn't a ruling in the district's favor in a lawsuit over state education funding, the district said Monday in a court filing...

CPS says shorter school year possible absent favorable ruling in funding suit

Chicago Public Schools could be forced to end its school year about two weeks early and cut some summer school programs if there isn't a ruling in the district's favor in a lawsuit over state education funding, the district said Monday in a court filing and in a letter to parents.

"These possibilities are deeply painful to every school community," district CEO Forrest Claypool said in a letter to parents.

The district said the school year could end June 1 instead of June 20 if its lawsuit isn't successful, Claypool said in the letter. In addition, summer school would be eliminated for all elementary students except those in special education programs.

CPS officials said the cuts could save some $96 million, while laying out a grim picture of the potential harm in court filings.

"If CPS ends the school year on June 1 — instead of June 20 — students will receive fewer days of instruction. If students are not in class, they forever lose those days of learning. There is no way to compensate for missed time in the classroom," CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said in an affidavit.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school board earlier this month accused the state of employing "separate and unequal systems of funding for public education in Illinois" in a lawsuit filed against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education. CPS described the legal move as the "last stand" for a cash-strapped district that's "on the brink."

Monday's court filing asked Judge Franklin Ulyses Valderrama of the Cook County Chancery Division to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from "continuing to fund two separate but massively unequal systems of education."

"Today, CPS filed a motion for preliminary injunction to ask a judge to rule quickly in our favor, given the fact that the numbers are so clear," Claypool said in a letter that acknowledged a "challenging" financial situation.

The Chicago Board of Education last week approved a $5.4 billion spending plan that includes a shortfall of close to $130 million.

Chicago Public Schools restores $15 million from spending freeze to hardest-hit schools Juan Perez Jr.

Chicago Public Schools will refund $15 million to schools hardest-hit by a recent spending freeze, a move that deepens the district's budget gap and blunts criticism that cuts disproportionately affected schools with mostly poor and minority students.

The reversal by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school...

Chicago Public Schools will refund $15 million to schools hardest-hit by a recent spending freeze, a move that deepens the district's budget gap and blunts criticism that cuts disproportionately affected schools with mostly poor and minority students.

The reversal by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school...

(Juan Perez Jr.)

CPS has already instituted several cost-cutting measures. The district imposed four furlough days that didn't affect classroom time as part of an effort to patch over a budget hole left in the wake of Rauner's decision to veto a measure that would have provided CPS with $215 million from the state. The governor argued the money was contingent on Democratic leaders agreeing to broader state pension reforms.

The district also froze $46 million in school budgets and threatened $18 million in cuts to independently operated schools, only to restore about a third of that money last week after criticism that the cuts had a disproportionate effect on poor and minority students.

CPS is hoping for a budget deal in Springfield that would provide additional funding, or victory in its lawsuit that challenged how the state pays for education.

Cuts to the school year could be a tough sell to Emanuel, who in his first term pushed hard to extend the CPS calendar in the face of opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union.

But fewer school days present a potential cost-cutting option for a district looking at emptied reserves and a spiral of short-term borrowing that's near its limit.

Jennie Huang Bennett, a top district finance official, said the money saved by the cuts would not plug all of a budget gap the district faces. The shortened school year would save about $91 million, while cutting summer school would save an additional $5 million, she said.

jjperez@tribpub.com

Twitter @PerezJr

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