CHICAGO >> Chicago’s mayor said the city’s public schools will remain open until the end of the school year, despite a judge’s decision today to toss a district lawsuit over education funding by the state of Illinois.
Cook County Circuit Judge Franklin Ulyses Valderrama denied a Chicago Public Schools motion for an injunction seeking to bar the state from distributing education funds in a discriminatory manner. He also ruled in favor of the state’s motion to dismiss the case, but is allowing CPS to come back with a new argument. He gave the school district until May 26 to file an amended complaint.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool had said the judge’s decision could mean the district would end the school year on June 1 without additional funding from the state.
“The kids of the City of Chicago will be in school until the end of the school year,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a news conference today. “That is where they belong.”
Although CPS officials said they haven’t determined how the district will pay its bills, Emanuel said officials will search for funds to keep the doors open.
“Missing a school day is wrong,” he said.
While Valderrama rejected the lawsuit, he did express sympathy for the plight of Chicago’s school district.
“The court is not oblivious to the fiscal challenges confronting CPS,” Valderrama wrote in his opinion. “To say that the State’s current scheme of funding public education is broken is to state the obvious. Plaintiffs’ Complaint, however, as constituted is not the vehicle to redress this inequity.”
CPS argued that the way the state funds its schools violates the civil rights of Chicago’s predominantly-minority student population. CPS educates 20 percent of Illinois students, but the district only receives 15 percent of state funding.
Emanuel said the children in Chicago’s poorer neighborhoods of Englewood and Woodlawn count just as much as those in the city’s wealthier suburbs.
“We are not asking for special treatment for the children of Chicago, we are seeking equitable treatment,” he said.
Illinois disperses money to schools through a complex calculation that provides per-student funding that even state officials acknowledge is insufficient, causing school districts to rely heavily on local property tax revenues. There’s wide consensus that the 1997 formula is unfair with a wide spending gap between low and high poverty districts, like Chicago. But there’s little agreement on how to overhaul it and the nearly two-year state budget impasse has overshadowed other issues at the Capitol.