Facing a nearly $1 billion budget deficit in the next fiscal year, Chicago Public Schools and city clergy rallied yesterday in a push to preserve and increase state education funding.
CPS officials attributed the looming red ink to scheduled teacher-pay raises, increasing pension contributions, local revenue shortfalls, and possible state-funding reductions. Illinois is currently about four months behind in its aid payments. It owes the district $200 million.
Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed deep cuts in current school-funding levels if lawmakers don’t approve revenue increases this spring. The district faces an additional $169 million in costs for teacher raises next year and its pension contribution will cost $279 million.
“From fiscal 2009 to 2011, our pension contributions are due to increase by 190%, said CPS chief executive officer Ron Huberman. “These kinds of increases cannot be sustained.”
The fiscal strains could force the district to increase class size and lay off teachers, actions officials have managed to avert in recent years. The latest warnings set the stage for CPS to seek teacher concessions, a hard sell with their union.
Huberman was joined at the news conference last week by the district’s new chief financial officer, Diana Ferguson.
CPS has about $5 billion of outstanding debt that has funded a massive, ongoing capital program. The district plans to issue at least $1 billion of additional debt over the next two years.