July 28, 2021
Spending plan bolstered by significant short-term federal support; Federation reiterates call for longer-term plans
CHICAGO – In an analysis released today, the Civic Federation expressed its support for the Chicago Public Schools’ proposed fiscal year 2022 budget.
The $9.3 billion one-year spending plan is balanced and includes federal funding to help the District recover from economic and other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After several years of work by the District to increase its financial stability, CPS’ budget is comfortably in the ‘balanced’ column for 2022,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall. “While the Federation is pleased to support the short-term spending plan, we would be remiss to not call again for the District to provide a comprehensive, publicly available long-term spending plan. Billions of dollars in one-time federal emergency funding is unlikely to be renewed after it is spent, and parents, teachers, students, Chicago residents and other stakeholder groups deserve to know how CPS will continue to manage its finances in the out years.”
The Civic Federation had long called for federal officials to provide robust assistance to help state and local governments navigate the financial challenges associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Now that the funding has been approved and is being distributed, CPS and school districts and other governments throughout the U.S. are in stronger financial shape.
Despite a much better cash position, major long-term issues the District will need to address include increased personnel and spending levels amid continued enrollment declines and sorely underfunded teachers pensions. No public long-term plan outlining strategies for these and other challenges has been presented.
“Governments like the State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools, which have historically struggled with their finances, may only temporarily be in a better position,” said Msall. “It bears repeating that this money provides some breathing room. Each of our Illinois governments would be well-served to create comprehensive plans for the future and to revisit those plans on a frequent basis.”
The Civic Federation continues to urge the Board of Education to put spending controls in place for long-term financial sustainability, especially in advance of the 21-member elected school board taking over District governance, to be phased in beginning in 2025.
“In addition to the financial concerns we have now and those that we can see on the horizon, the Federation anticipates the District might experience unintended consequences as the result of this experimental new board, said Msall. “A 21-member, elected board has never been tried. Before moving ahead with this plan, the Illinois General Assembly—with the counsel of the CPS administration and the City of Chicago—should revisit the legislation establishing this board, including reducing the size to a number more in line with national best practices.”