SPRINGFIELD—Chicago stands to gain about $40 million in new operating funds and $220 million for building repair and construction under legislation passed at the end of the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session. A bid to let the School Board accelerate some state-funded construction and repair projects was expected to pass, but a request for more teacher-pension money failed.
DOUBLE-WHAMMY Chicago stands to gain about $40 million under a change to existing laws that currently cost Chicago (and other districts under tax caps) both local and state revenues: Under one whammy, property tax caps impose a 5-percent ceiling on increases to a school district’s tax collections, cutting off some access to new revenue from a growing tax base. Under the other whammy, state officials calculate general state aid as if the district could access all the revenue from its tax base, which makes the district look “richer” than it is and eligible for less state aid.
CHARTERS Chicago charter schools will get about half of $10 million in state start-up aid for charters under a bill passed at the end of the session.
ILLINOIS FIRST Chicago schools stand to gain about $220 million for school construction and rehab under Gov. George Ryan’s $12 billion public works program.
CPS DEBT Vallas wants more flexibility in spending the $300 million Chicago gets out of an existing state fund for school construction and rehab. The bill would allow CPS to speed up its borrowing and spending by allowing the district to spend the state money on debt service, not just direct construction costs. The bill passed the House by a wide margin and is expected to clear the Senate.
TEACHER PENSION FUND The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union pushed for an increase in the state contribution to CPS teacher pensions, but the final version of the state’s budget shows no new money.
Paul Vallas, CEO of the Chicago school system, says the state’s contribution toward CPS teacher pensions has been frozen at $65 million since 1995, while downstate pension funds have received increases. The proposed bill would mandate that any new money for downstate pensions be matched by a corresponding increase for Chicago.