Several cities across the nation received federal discretionary dollars last year to help cover COVID-19 related costs. The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) payments could be used for public health and safety response efforts, testing sites and economic support initiatives, as long as the costs were “necessary expenditures” incurred due to the pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Out of the $470 million Chicago received, the city directed $281.5 million to the Chicago Police Department between March 1 and May 15, according to a budget briefing provided to Chicago aldermen in February. This move was met by criticism, including from Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who said the money spent on the police department could have been used to directly help Chicagoans struggling from the pandemic. It also came after activist made calls to defund the police amid protests against police brutality in the summer.
In 2018, The Chicago Reporter filed more than 200 Freedom of Information Act requests, fought dozens of public agencies for access to records and sometimes we’ve even won. Here’s what we requested, what we’re still waiting for, and what we’ve learned along the way.
Chicago Public Schools announced Wednesday that it would cut $200 million in spending for the coming school year by eliminating 1,400 positions, leaving special education vacancies open and cutting stipends for elementary school sports coaches, among other reductions.
Tony Smith previously ran the school system in Oakland, Calif., and is the newly named state superintendent for Illinois. Melissa Sanchez talked to him about his vision for education, the role of testing, charters, finding teachers of color and whether CPS should declare bankruptcy.
Governor Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Education Fund–the non-profit organization that paid to pilot the initiative at the center of an ongoing federal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a controversial $20 million contract–all sought to distance themselves from the situation on Monday.