school funding – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.14 No celebration: Chicagoans protest police, schools http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/no-celebration-chicagoans-protest-police-schools/ Tue, 27 Aug 2013 23:44:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7638 Two dovetailing protests will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Chicago on Wednesday — a march on the Board of Education by a citywide coalition of community groups at 10 a.m., and a march on City Hall demanding accountability for police killings directly afterward.

Both protests emphasize how far we still have to go to address racial inequality, and both call for the creation of elected bodies to oversee local agencies — an elected school board and an elected civilian police accountability council.

***

A dozen community organizations have called for a one-day school boycott and will march on the Board of Education at 10 a.m. demanding an end to the destabilization of neighborhood schools and recognition of the human right to a safe, quality education for every child.

They are calling for an elected school board and reallocation of TIF funds to stop budget cuts.

“Our schools are still very segregated and very unequal,” said Sarah Simmons of Parents For Teachers.  Suburban and selective enrollment schools have a full range of programs while students at Dyett High School in Washington Park are forced to take art and phys ed classes online, she said.

After heavy budget cuts, Kelly High School has two art teachers for 2,700 students and no library, said Israel Munoz, a recent Kelly grad who helped organize the new Chicago Students Union and is now headed to college.

Adolphous McDowell, a longtime school activist with KOCO, places Mayor Emanuel’s educational policies in the context of the backlash against the civil rights movement — noting that we’re still struggling to fulfill the promises of Reconstruction, when newly enfranchised black legislators created public education systems in southern states where they’d never existed.

One reaction to school desegregation in the 1950s and ’60s was the shift of public funding to white-only private schools in the South; later President Reagan pushed vouchers as a way to shift public funds to private school operators, McDowell said.

All those efforts “are coming to pass with charter schools,” he said.

Wednesday’s protest is the kickoff of a 25-city campaign to stop school closings and charter expansions.

Working with the national coalition Journey for Justice, Chicago students and parents have filed civil rights complaints against CPS and testified this January at a hearing on school closings at the U.S. Department of Education.

***

The local chapter of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is leading a Peoples March on City Hall for Peace and Justice, highlighting the call for police accountability.  After gathering at the Federal Plaza at 11 a.m., they’ll march to City Hall for a 12 noon rally.

Since 2009, 70 Chicagoans have been killed by police, often in very questionable circumstances, said Ted Pearson of NAARPR.    Many police victims are shot in the back, he said.

Not a single officer has been charged for these killings, he said.

Investigations by the Independent Police Review Authority are “ineffective,” he said.  IPRA can only make recommendations to the Police Board or turn over evidence to the State’s Attorney.  “Anita Alvarez does nothing with these cases,” he said.  “She just sits on them.”

He points to the case of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old shot by an off-duty detective in Douglas Park in March 2012.  The officer claimed a young man pointed a gun at him, but he was holding a cellphone, said Pearson.  Alvarez charged the young man — who was shot in the hand by Detective Dante Servin — with aggravated assault.  Charges were dropped when Servin failed to appear for a hearing.

Servin has not been charged and remains on the police force. This spring the City Council approved a $4.5 million settlement with Boyd’s family.

Pearson said the issue of police killings gets little mainstream attention “but in the black community it’s a hot-button issue.”

“It’s common to hear people say the police are just a gang like any other gang, the only difference is they get away with it,” he said.  “They take the law into their own hands.”

The alliance’s legislative proposal to establish an elected civilian police control board is modeled on a measure that was enacted by Berkeley, California, in the 1980s, he said.

Buses are bringing protestors from Englewood, Washington Park, Woodlawn, Lawndale, Garfield Park, Austin, Pilsen, Little Village, Hegewisch, Humboldt Park, and Rogers Park.

***
Gary Younge has a new book from Chicago’s Haymarket Press on The Speech, about the background of Martin Luther King’s famous oration fifty years ago.  “The speech was profoundly and willfully misunderstood,” theologian Vincent Harding, a colleague of King’s tells Younge in an adaptation published in the Nation.

Younge points to one sentence often overlooked today — and which could serve as a rejoinder to Emanuel’s austerity agenda:  while blacks remain “on a lonely island of poverty,” King said, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”

Don Rose, one of the Chicago organizers of the March on Washington, underscores this point in his latest Chicago Daily Observer column.  But given Wednesday’s agenda, last week’s column is also germane:

“There are so many twists and turns in Rahm Emanuel’s school plans it’s hard to figure out exactly what he has in mind—apart from wrecking the Chicago Teachers Union. He sure doesn’t seem to be helping the kids, which should be his first order of business.”

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Alternatives to school cuts http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/alternatives-to-school-cuts/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/alternatives-to-school-cuts/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 22:32:17 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7539 Just a month ago — when they were intent on closing 50 schools — the watchword at CPS was “quality education.”

“What we must do is ensure that the resources that some kids get, all kids get,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett in an internet ad funded by the right-wing Walton Family Foundation.  “And these resources include libraries and access to technology and science labs and art classrooms….

“And with our consolidations we’re able to guarantee that our children will get what they need and what they deserve.”

That was then.

Raise Your Hand has released a very partial list of budget cuts faced by schools under the district’s new per-pupil funding system, and it’s impressive:

Goethe, Jamieson, Kozmisky, Sutherland, each will lose between $250,000 and $300,000.  Audobon, Belden, Gale, Grimes Fleming, and Ray, between $400,000 and $500,000.  Bell, Darwin Mitchell, Murphy, Suder, Sullivan High, betweeen $700,000 and $800,000.  Gage Park High, Lincoln Park High, Mather Elementary, Roosevelt High, $1 million or thereabouts.  Foreman High, $1.7 million.

CTU reports that Taft High School faces a $3 million cut.

According to Wendy Katten of RYH, every school they’ve contacted faces budget cuts.  So far they have figures from about 10 percent of CPS schools, and the cuts total about $45 million, she said.  (CTU budget analyst Kurt Hilgendorf said the union has requested district-wide figures on cuts but CPS has declined to supply them.)

“It’s horrific,” she said.  “There are terrible losses.”

It also clearly contravene’s Byrd-Bennett’s promise about what school consolidations would accomplish.

Losing library access

Two high schools,Von Steuben and Lincoln Park,  are reported to be considering laying off librarians — at Von Steuben it would mean no open-access library; at Lincoln Park, the library would remain open part of the school day but not after school — but many more principals are being forced to choose between staffing their libraries and having enough teachers.

At many schools it will mean  eliminating art or music.  At Katten’s son’s school, it looks like art will be eliminated and physical education will be staffed by a part-time teacher — which means gym just twice a week, far below the state requirement.

Funding for enrichment programming as part of the longer school day trumpeted by Emanuel last year is being eliminated.  At many schools, “the longer day is not going to be very enriching,” Katten said.

And many schools will be forced to lay off teachers and increase class sizes.  Audubon Elementary, losing $400,000, is considering laying off as many as six teachers, which will raise class sizes to 37 to 45, according to DNA Info.  Sullivan High is considering laying off seven teachers; Kelly High could lose ten or fifteen.

CPS’s per-pupil funding system, touted as a boon to principal autonomy, has turned out to be yet another way to remove resources from neighborhood schools.

It’s as if Emanuel thought he could cut his way to better schools.

TIF squads

And while the city’s elite clearly prefers budget cuts and layoffs to deal with CPS’s financial troubles, parents and teachers see another way.

Raise Your Hand is organizing “TIF squads” in every ward to compile the details of how schools are being affected.  They’ll use the information to impress individual aldermen with the necessity of declaring a TIF surplus and returning funds to CPS.

“We need a long-term sustainable solution at the state level, but parents refuse to accept these cuts now while the city is simultaneously handing out property tax money for projects like a $55-million DePaul stadium,” Katten said.

The group is holding an All South Side Schools meeting Thursday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn, to continue organizing.  Friday, June 21 at 10 a.m., they’re holding a parent rally against cuts at the State of Illinois buildling, Randolph and Clark.

In the next year they’re among many groups planning a serious drive to fix Illinois’s regressive tax structure — a desperately needed reform to address school funding as well as the state’s fiscal crisis.  Will Emanuel and the school board join in?

Where the money is

In her City Club address Tuesday, CTU president Karen Lewis outlined a series of revenue measures that would tap into the vast wealth generated by the financial sector and restore a measure of balance to the tax system — and financial stability to governing bodies.

“The CTU wants to work with our leaders in City Hall, Springfield and at the board to solve these sorts of problems,” she said. “We can’t work together on these issues because they keep creating new problems.”

Instead of sharply dividing the city with his campaign of school closings — which had virtually no impact on CPS’s fiscal problems — Emanuel could “take a holistic approach” and work with all stakeholders for basic changes that would really make a difference, Hilgendorf said.

One example:  CTU backed legislation in the spring session that would close three corporate tax loopholes that bring no economic benefit and cost the state $445 million a year.  It died in committee.

And while everyone’s attention and energy was absorbed by school closings, nothing got done on CPS’s pension crisis.

But at least we’re seeing progress on building a new stadium for DePaul.

***

At the Campaign for America’s Future, Richard Eskow promotes the new Education Declaration — which spells out what might be called real education reform — and provides an apt rundown of the modus operandus of “Michelle Rhee and Rahm Emanuel and the rest of their ilk, using the same playbook that’s been deployed against Social Security, Medicare and other vital government services. It goes like this:

1. Pretend that “budgets” are the real crisis – but never mention that corporations and the wealthy are paying less in taxes than ever before in modern history.

2. Make scapegoats of innocent people to draw attention away from yourselves. For Social Security they’ve attacked “greedy geezers,” but it’s hard to come up with a catchy equivalent for kids. (“Insatiable imps”? “Avaricious anklebiters”?) So they vilify teachers instead.

3. Sell a fantasy which says that the private sector can do more, with less money, than government can.  (Never, never mention that private insurance provides far less healthcare than public insurance, at much higher cost. And don’t bring up the mess privatization’s made of prisons and other government services.)

4. Find a name that doesn’t use words like “money-making.” How about “charter schools”?

5. Describe yourselves as “reformers” – rather than, say, “demolishers.” That’s why “entitlement reform” is used as a euphemism for cutting Social Security and Medicare. (Michelle Rhee even called her autobiography “Radical.” Apparently “Shameless” was taken.)

6. Employ the political and media elite’s fascination with (and poor understanding of) numbers. Suggest that “standardized” and “data-driven” programs will solve everything – without ever mentioning that the truly ideological decisions are made when you decide what it is you’re measuring.

7. Co-opt the elite media into supporting your artificial description of the problem, as well as your entirely self-serving solution.

8. Use your money to co-opt politicians from both parties so you can present your agenda as “bipartisan” – a word which means you can “buy” a few “partisans” from both sides.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that all these attacks share a common playbook. The money’s coming from the same pockets, and for the same reasons: so they can keep their own taxes low – and make money from the privatization schemes.”

 

Updated: A sentence with an inaccurate statement regarding the impact on selective enrollment schools was removed.

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Reality check: closing schools, saving money? http://www.newstips.org/2013/04/reality-check-closing-schools-saving-money/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/04/reality-check-closing-schools-saving-money/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 18:34:48 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7137 For month after month, Chicagoans have been told that CPS has to close schools because it has a $1 billion deficit.

How will people react after the massive disruption of wholesale school closings, when the district’s financial problems remain unchanged?

And that’s before Mayor Emanuel starts handing out new contracts to charter schools.

CPS says they’ll save something like a billion dollars over the next decade by closing 54 schools.  There’s reason to be skeptical.

According to the district, they’ll be saving $43 million a year in operating costs and an average of $56 million yearly in capital costs by closing the schools.  The operating savings come from laying off administrators and staff, according to the Sun-Times, which called it a conservative estimate, since it doesn’t include teachers who will lose their jobs.

Debt service

But that was before Catalyst and WBEZ revealed that the savings from school closings calculated by CPS did not take into account debt service for a new bond issue covering spending related to school closings.

CPS is planning to spend $233 million in upfront operating and capital costs for receiving schools, including building upgrades, air conditioning, security, iPads and learning gardens — “investments” to make closings more palatable, and a token gesture toward longstanding complaints that neighborhood schools are under-resourced.

About two-thirds of a new $329 million bond revenue will go to cover those costs, according to Catalyst; debt service will be $25 million a year for 30 years.

The $43 million in operating savings will more than cover debt service costs, CPS tells Catalyst.  But it doesn’t leave very much in the way of savings.

It’s worth noting the recent study that found that districts across the country consistently overestimated savings and underestimated the costs of closings.  CPS’s budget forecasting record does not make it a likely candidate to be an exception.  (Neither does Mayor Emanuel’s.)

Where CPS is clearly — perhaps intentionally — overestimating savings is in its claim of $560 million in avoided capital costs over the next ten years.

Capital savings?

A funny thing happened on the way to CPS’s 2012 capital needs assessments:  the district added a huge wish list for each school.

Previous assessments dealt with basic structural needs.  The new assessments include air conditioning, new or upgraded science and computer labs and art rooms for each school — without regard to actual space availability in individual schools — playground construction or repairs where needed, and building accessibility.

(This doesn’t mean CPS has altered its policy and is making AC and libraries standard features at neighborhood schools, however.  The only place AC or libraries are being added are in receiving schools that currently lack them.)

The capital needs assessments shot up — and so did the projected savings from closing schools.  People noticed.

Blocks Together noted that for ten West Humboldt Park elementary schools — five of which are now slated for closing — capital needs assessments doubled and in some cases more than tripled.  What that means is that CPS can claim more “savings” from school closings.

The East Village Association noted that the capital needs assessment for Otis Elementary went up from $5.7 million in 2010 to $11.9 million in 2012; for Peabody, which CPS wants to close into Otis, they went up from $3.3 million in 2010 to $11.5 million in 2012.

Even Emanuel’s City Council leader, Alderman Patrick O’Connor (40th), noticed.  As DNAinfo reports, O’Connor “said the $16.3 million CPS said is needed to update and maintain [Trumbull Elementary] is ‘significantly higher than you would actually spend if in fact you were going to keep that school open.'”

“‘Clearly if you wanted to make it top-of-the-line, $16 million would be a nice investment,” O’Connor said. “But if you just wish to maintain the building to keep it open, you’re more in the area of [$4 million to $5 million].”

So a half-billion in savings from capital spending — in a district that has traditionally spent little on neighborhood school buildings and lavished spending on selective enrollment and charter schools?  Don’t believe the hype.

Real money

In any case, if you want to talk about the school district’s financial distress, school closings won’t have much impact.

The $43 million in operating savings CPS claims amounts to 1 percent of the district’s operating budget — and that’s before subtracting debt service costs.  The whole framing of the issue in terms of the scary big deficit seems to have been pure misdirection.

Much more significant factors include debt service — rising by $100 million this year to $475 million in annual costs — and a loss of about $100 million in state aid since 2011, expected to drop to $140 million.

And pension costs. With a previous deferral of pension obligations coming due, CPS’s annual pension payments, which are $200 million this year, are set to shoot up to $600 million next year.

Now we’re talking real money.

How this will be addressed is anyone’s guess at this point.  Springfield could work out another postponement of CPS’s pension obligations.  Or there are various state and local revenue sources that could be tapped, if the political will is there, according to Kurt Hilgendorf of CTU.

Current negotiations over pension “reform” in Springfield have focused on plans that include cutting benefits, an approach that will certainly bring a drawn-out court challenge, since the state’s constitution explicitly prohibits cutting benefits.

A responsible approach would involve negotiating with unions — whose members certainly want to see their pension funds remain solvent (indeed, unions seem willing to consider higher employee contributions) — and coming up with new revenue.

All of these problems — the deficits, the pension crises, everything — flow from the state’s disfunctional revenue system, an upside-down, regressive tax structure which fails to capture revenue at the top, where it’s growing, and instead aims squarely at the middle and bottom, where people are steadily losing ground.

For some reason, all the billionaire reformers and all their politician friends prefer ordering cuts to fixing the state’s revenue system.  Some argue, not without plausibility, that they welcome fiscal crisis as an excuse to push privatization.

So when Mayor Emanuel asks what alternatives his opponents have, or Barbara Byrd-Bennett asks where they were ten years ago, it’s more than insulting, it’s ignorant.

Because for well over a decade — back when Byrd-Bennett was closing schools in Cleveland and Emanuel was raking in his own millions as an investment banker — the activists and organizations now opposing school closings have been pushing for progressive tax reform and real TIF reform.

But instead of rallying people to begin talking about a realistic solution, one that goes to the roots of these problems — instead of even attempting to move beyond talking points to a grown-up conversation over budget problems or the pension crisis — Emanuel has chosen a path that has produced sharp division and conflict.  And it doesn’t begin to address the district’s serious financial problems.

 

Related:

What could go wrong?

Better schools?

 

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On TIF reform, Bronzeville has ideas http://www.newstips.org/2011/08/on-tif-reform-bronzeville-has-ideas/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/08/on-tif-reform-bronzeville-has-ideas/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2011 21:57:47 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4639 Bronzeville residents turned out in impressive numbers for last Thursday’s public forum of the Mayor’s Task Force on TIF Reform, which was held at the Bronzeville Chicago Military Academy.

Other communities were represented, but more forums in additional communities would certainly offer the task force greater breadth of public input.  But last week’s was the only hearing that is planned.

Bronzeville is one of the city’s most heavily TIFed communities, with thirteen TIF districts covering 80 percent of the area, many created to finance CHA redevelopments – with more in the works had Mayor Daley won the 2016 Olympic games, according to Housing Bronzeville.

Sheila Carter testified on behalf of the group that TIFs have “failed local taxpayers” in their lack of transparency and accountability.  It’s been “virtuallly impossible for local residents to understand how TIF monies were being raised and spent in our area,” she said, suggesting “this confusion and lack of documentation was intentional.”

She slammed Daley’s skimming of $10 million from the King/47th TIF to help fill last year’s budget gap, saying it was done without community consultation.  “No TIF money is ‘surplus’ in Bronzeville when our development needs are so great,” she said.

And TIF projects driven by outside developers and downtown planners have ignored long-range planning by local organizations, she said.

A housing plan for Bronzeville

In referendums held in 2004 and 2008, Housing Bronzeville won overwhelming voter support for a proposal to create a Bronzeville Housing Trust Fund to develop affordable housing on 500 of the nearly 2,000 city-owned vacant lots in the area.

The group was in discussions with the city over a pilot project along those lines, possibly using TIF funds to cover some costs, but talks are on hold since the new administration entered office, Rev. Jeffrey Campbell, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center, told Newstips.

Among many other Bronzeville residents who spoke, Sandra Bivens of the 51st Street Business Association proposed using neighborhood business groups which serve as delegate agencies for the city to monitor TIFs and conduct outreach to residents. “The community has yet to see a report on the number of jobs and small businesses created by TIF,” she said

Bernard Loyd, a local entrepreneur who’s getting TIF funding for a commerical development at 51st and Prairie, pointed out that Bronzeville TIFs have heavily favored residential projects and done little to create local jobs.  The program is geared toward large corporations, and approaches aimed at small businesses should be included, he said (more below).

Pilsen, Englewood, Austin

Other communities were represented.  “In Pilsen, TIF has been used as a tool to eliminate affordability and displace working-class families,” said Rosalie Mancera of the Pilsen Alliance.

“In Pilsen, TIF has not benefied the larger community; it has benefited private developers.,”  she said.  “We are subsidizing our own displacement.  This is wrong.”

Cherice Price of the Residents Association of Greater Engelwood called for training elected officials so they can promote TIF opportunities to district residents.  “People in our community may not even know there’s a TIF, and they don’t know how to go about applying,” she said.  “It’s people outside our community who are taking advantage of the opportunities.”

She called for a single advisory committee that would provide local oversight for several TIFs in Englewood.

Dwayne Truss of the South Austin Coalition challenged task force chair Carole Brown’s assertion that “TIF collections do not come at the expense of other taxing bodies.”  (In fact, as all readers of Ben Joravsky know, TIFs freeze property tax revenues going to the city, county, schools, and parks, and divert any additional revenue to a separate development fund.)

“We know that the money you give to corporate welfare comes out of our communities,” Truss said.  He called for an emphasis on jobs, pointing to a $3 million subsidy to Coca Cola to move a bottling plant from Little Village to Austin (AustinTalks recently reported the plant employs only 28 residents of the Austin area).  “How many teachers, how many park district jobs, would that money have saved?” he asked.

Community leaders representing the Albany Park Neighborhood CouncilLakeview Action Council, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Action Now in Englewood – and Melody McCorey, a young homeless mother of four small children, for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless – testified in favor of Sweet Home Chicago‘s proposal to devote $100 million in TIF funds for rehabbing foreclosed properties as affordable housing.

Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative called for shutting down the LaSalle Street TIF district, calling it an “egregious misuse of public funds.”  The city should declare a TIF surplus and return $200 million from downtown TIFs to the tax base, she said.

She called for dedicating $100 million to affordable housing and pulling CPS out of the TIF program.  “Given the economic crisis that we are in, it makes no sense that the city holds on to over $850 million in tax dollars, while our communities are struggling,” she said.

TIF funds “shouldn’t be going to make rich corporations richer” while class sizes are increasing, said Kristine Mayle of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Wendy Katten of the Raise Your Hand Coalition expressed disappointment that, despite promises of reform, the city just approved $7 million for an upscale grocery store in Greektown. CPS’s share of that money would have provided music or language programs for 50 elementary schools with 25,000 students, she said.

“Our schools are in dire need of the tax money that is being diverted from them, and our children can no longer afford to lose teachers and programs,” she said.

Katten called for sunsetting TIFs “that have served their purpose” and restricting new TIF designations to blighted areas.  She urged the task force to consider removing CPS from the TIF equation.

In the 47th ward, where she lives, “we have million-dollar homes and six TIFs diverting money from schools,” she said.  “It’s a shame.”

One size doesn’t fit all

Bernard Loyd’s Urban Juncture is developing a “culinary destination” in a large turn-of-the-century building at 51st and Prairie – four restaurants, each featuring different aspects of black cuisine, and a produce market, with 140 jobs projected.  TIF funding has been approved to cover $3 million of the project’s $9 million cost.

As a former partner at McKinsey and Co., a major management consulting firm, he’s become well-versed in the differences between big and small business.  The way the TIF program is structured and administered is fundamentally geared toward large corporations and developers, he said.

Businesses don’t operate that way, he points out.  “When GM is selling to Avis or to an individual consumer – they want to make the sale in either case – but everything is different, the sales effort, the terms – even the car will be different.”

With TIF, it’s the same application process, the same basic deal structure.  “In the vast majority of projects outside of affordable housing, a developer or a corporate entity has brought it to the city, and the city is reacting,” he said.  “That reactive posture puts the onus on the community to generate opportunities, and that’s part of the reason you have very skewed usage of TIFs.”

In Bronzeville that means five TIFs with nearly $100 million in revenues have generated only nine projects, seven of them residential, and only one (Urban Juncture’s) commercial.

The city needs to develop “a much more proactive and streamlined approach” to promote community economic development, he said.  “There’s a huge need to educate business folks and residents about what [TIF] is and how it can be used.”  (At this point, the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development “doesn’t have the resources to do a lot of outreach,” he said.)

Capital rich, capital poor

And while corporations have easy access to capital and residential developers can tap a range of public funding sources, getting private financing for a commercial project in a neighborhood like Bronzeville is a very tough climb.  There may need to be flexibility in the proportion of costs TIF will cover — and in the way deals are structured.

The typical TIF deal is back-end loaded. “For a corporation it’s a sweetener, and they have a hundred other places they can go for cash.  We’re in Bronzeville, virtually cut off from capital,” said Loyd.  “We need money up front.  But the city tells us, hey, great project, we’re going to help, and by the way, when we get a certificate of completion, then you’ll get payment.”

City development staff “really worked with us” to get a TIF note which Urban Juncture could borrow on, “but it was a whole long negotiation,” Loyd said.  And some of the funding is still being held back.  (Loyd’s group has invested $1.5 million in the project and is working with nonprofit lenders.)

“The city is used to working with huge corporations,” said Loyd.  “But a process that will work for United is almost certainly not going to work well for us.”

“We need to realign our thinking as a city to invest in neighborhoods, because it is not trickling down from downtown,” he said.  “Many of our neighborhoods are in bad, bad shape, and we have to do a lot better creating jobs for residents. We’re not capturing the opportunities.”

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Time for TIF reform? http://www.newstips.org/2011/03/time-for-tif-reform/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/03/time-for-tif-reform/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2011 21:44:56 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=3521 Chicago teachers and community groups will call for an end to big business TIF giveaways which are draining the CPS budget at a rally tomorrow (Saturday, March 19, noon) at Jenner Elementary, 1119 N. Cleveland.

After the rally they’ll march to a number of businesses around the Gold Coast that have received TIF funding, said Jackson Potter of the Chicago Teachers Union.  TIF funds (including subsidies to developers) have benefited such corporations as Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he said.

The TIF program diverts about $250 million a year from the CPS budget to “wealthy developers, well-connected businesses, and Wall Street bankers,” while 160 CPS schools have no library, teachers are being laid off, education programs are cut and class sizes are growing, he said. CPS is projecting a $700 million deficit for the coming year.

The protest’s slogan is “TIFs Are For Kids.”  It comes at a time when TIF reform seems to be under serious consideration in Springfield, and a new mayor-elect is saying he wants reform too.

It’s not yet clear what Rahm Emanuel means by “reform.”  He began his campaign calling for greater transparency on TIFs – for one thing, including them in the city budget – and also for skimming TIF funds to hire more police, a move many think is probably not legally feasible.

Since winning election Emanuel has said “we need to return [the TIF program] to its original purpose,” as “a tool for blighted communities” rather than “for high-rent areas.”

Corporate welfare

That echoes the long-standing criticism of community groups, who say TIF has diverted property tax revenues to politically-favored areas and businesses that don’t need it, and that open-ended rather than project-specific TIF plans have accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars for Mayor Daley to use for his friends, at his whim.

Building on years of coverage at the Chicago Reader, recent reports have confirmed this view.  According to reporters from Chicago Talks, nearly half of the $1.2 billion in TIF money designated for private sector projects since 2000 went to some of the area’s most profitable corporations.

According to the Chicago Reporter, $1.2 billion in property tax dollars were siphoned from the city, county, schools, and parks to the development projects in the Loop and Near South Side – just two of Chicago’s 77 community areas getting 55 percent of all TIF money spent between 2004 and 2008.

“We’ve been saying for a long time that they have been abusing it,” said Carolina Gaete of Blocks Together.  “They’re starving the taxing bodies.  TIF has really been used as corporate welfare — and a tool for gentrification.”

If Emanuel is serious about returning TIF to its original purpose, the first thing he should do is sunset the LaSalle Central TIF, said one long-time observer.

Created in 2006, the LaSalle Central TIF has funneled millions of dollars to major corporations – United Airlines, Miller Coors, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group among others – in many cases to renovate corporate offices.

The LaSalle Central TIF has over $36 million in available funds this year.  It’s expected to collect $1.5 billion over its 23-year life – about half of which will come from property tax that would otherwise go to CPS – for use in an area that comprises some of the city’s most prime real estate.

“There should never have been a TIF in that area,” said David Merriman of UIC.

Movement in Springfield

Meanwhile, a number of measures reforming TIF have been introduced in Springfield, including proposals to return uncommitted TIF funds to taxing bodies annually, exempt CPS revenues from TIF diversions, and require audits of Chicago TIFs and stepped-up disclosure (Progress Illinois has a list).

These are likely to be combined with other proposals into a single consensus bill by a group of legislators and advocates convened by Rep. John Taylor (D – Marion).  And prospects for passage this session look good, said Jonathan Goldman of Parent PAC, a new group that advocates for public school parents, which includes veterans of campaigns against the diversion of school funds to TIFs.

Growing momentum for reform reflects growing popular awareness about TIFs — as well as the mounting financial challenges faced by CPS and Chicago, Goldman said.  “And part of it is that Daley is leaving; he won’t be there to defend it,” he said.  Previously “people were afraid to go there.”

Housing Action Illinois, which helped push through earlier TIF reforms a decade ago, has compiled a list of TIF reform principles and submitted it to Bradley’s working group, Bob Palmer said.

These include: tightening up the definition of “blight” used to qualify TIF plans; limiting the land area in a municipality that can be TIFed; requiring explicit goals and purposes, with a process for returning revenues to taxing bodies when goals are met; requiring governing boards of taxing bodies to approve participation in a TIF, allowing them to limit their participation, and limiting TIF diversions to property value increases above the rate of inflation; and setting a process for declaring a surplus and returning unused revenues to schools districts and other taxing bodies.

Similar points are made in a memo to the working group from the Better Government Association.

Another proposal backed by Housing Action, designed to facilitate the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, would allow TIF funding to cover 100 percent of the cost of construction of low-income housing.

More sunshine

In Chicago, reform could mean fuller implementation of the TIF Sunshine Ordinance approved in 2009.  Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), coauthor of the measure, described his disappointment with its implementation to Chicago Talks – including the city’s claim that documents that should have been posted couldn’t be located.

Community activists monitoring neighborhood TIFs say it’s still hard to get information.  Gaete, who works with the Chicago Central Park TIF advisory council, says it’s not clear how officials come up with financial projections and other numbers.

Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance, who holds an annual town hall meeting reporting on seven TIFs around North Lawndale, said its impossible to learn how many community residents have gotten jobs or what minority contracts have been awarded.

Special programs which are supposed to provide TIF support for residents – including home improvements, small business support and job training – use TIF money but aren’t listed in TIF budgets, making them impossible to track, she said.

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Students: Emanuel errs on charter performance http://www.newstips.org/2011/02/students-emanuel-wrong-on-charter-performance/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/02/students-emanuel-wrong-on-charter-performance/#comments Wed, 09 Feb 2011 23:54:31 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=3272 Rahm Emanuel “didn’t do his homework” when he touted the supposed superiority of charter schools in a televised debate, three Chicago high school students assert in a Youtube video that’s attracted widespread attention.

Chicago news media didn’t do its homework, either, when it allowed Emanuel’s baseless assertion to pass unchallenged.

In the debate on WGN on January 27, Emanuel said: “If you take out Northside [College Prep], if you take out Walter Payton, the seven best performing high schools are all charters.”

In fact, none of the best-performing high schools are charters, the students point out.

“Four hundred thousand students go to their neighborhood public schools [in Chicago],” they say on the video.  “You want a real school turnaround? Invest in us!”  The video supports Miguel del Valle’s candidacy.

Sullivan junior Gerardo Aguilar, who’s involved in a Mikva Challenge civic participation project at the school, attended a January 17 candidates forum sponsored by Mikva and WTTW.  He says he liked Del Valle’s repeated emphasis on neighborhood schools, and he came back to school and organized fellow members of the Latino Club to canvas for him.

On the last Saturday of January, they watched the WGN debate online, so they’d have a better grasp of the issues when they went door-to-door later that day.

‘Did you hear what he said?’

They immediately realized Emanuel’s error; they knew that nearby Lane Tech was a top-ranked school, Aguilar said.

“We were talking about it: ‘Did you hear what he said?'” relates Alexandra Alvarez, also a junior at Sullivan. “If he doesn’t care about neighborhood schools, what’s he going to do to help them?”

All in the same day, they researched the issue, scripted, shot, and edited the video, and posted it on Youtube, with the help of a neighbor who’d been Aguilar’s coach for the Young Leaders Conference of the National Hispanic Institute.

(Latino Club advisor Jacquelyn Rosa gives an account of the video’s creation at Achy Obejas’s Citylife blog.)

As far as Emanuel’s inaccuracy, the students’ charge is on the money, said Don Moore of Designs for Change, who analyzed rankings at Newstips’ request.

In fact, the top nine high schools – based on the percentage of students at or above state standards in combined reading, math, and science scores on the Prairie State Achievement Examination – are all public, non-charter schools, he said.

“Emanuel’s claim has no factual basis,” Moore said.

The Emanuel campaign did not respond to a request for clarification.

Not only are no charters among Chicago’s top-ranked high schools; not one charter is among the twelve Chicago high schools with 50 percent or more of students meeting standards.

Unlike charters, eleven of the top performing schools are governed by Local School Councils, which select their principals for four-year performance contracts. (The twelfth, Rickover Military Academy, has an advisory LSC.)  Also unlike charters, all twelve are staffed by unionized teachers.

In addition to favoring privately-operated, nonunion charters, Emanuel has called for removing the power of public school LSCs to appoint principals – a central accountability feature of Chicago school reform – and returning it to the central bureaucracy.  (Several efforts by Mayor Daley to accomplish this over recent years failed to gain traction in Springfield.)  And Emanuel has backed legislative efforts to severely constrain teachers’ seniority and collective bargaining rights.

‘Fix existing schools’

For the students, the concern seems to be continued disinvestment in neighborhood schools to benefit new schools that soak up resources but serve much smaller numbers of students, without better results.

“There are schools that already exist that need fixing, that need resources,” said Alvarez.

“Going to a neighborhood school, we don’t have a lot of resources,” she said.  But although “the attention the school gets is for violence, gangs and drugs,” there are “programs that help students do better.”

Aguilar mentions the school’s medical careers academy, as well as the Paideia program, which was withdrawn last year when funding ran out.

Beyond that is a concern that school policy will be based on prejudices rather than facts.  Emanuel’s misstatement “shows that the people that people think know everything aren’t really looking into the problems they say they want to fix,” said Christina Henriquez.

Moore backs this up too. “The public needs to know the truth about the charter school myths,” said Moore.  “A lot of their supporters speak of them as the solution, but the evidence doesn’t bear this out.”

He cites a study (pdf) commissioned by the Renaissance Schools Fund, a business-backed group that raises money for charter schools in Chicago, that found no difference in achievement when matched pairs of charter and public school students were compared over two years.

Indeed, Moore’s analysis indicates that more than two-thirds of the charters currently serving grades 9 through 12 have less than 27 percent of students meeting standards.

Finding Emanuel’s error “got us to ask, how much does he really know about schools?” said Henriquez.  And it led them to fear that “he doesn’t care about us.”

Beyond all that, perhaps, the students’ achievement – catching a significant gaffe by a major candidate which completely slipped past the city’s news media (this reporter included) – is a testament to the unsung accomplishments of students and teachers at Sullivan and in neighborhood schools across the city.

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TIF funds for housing, schools http://www.newstips.org/2010/06/tif-funds-for-housing-schools/ Tue, 29 Jun 2010 21:44:23 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2013 With the city’s inspector general reporting that over a million dollars in Central Loop TIF funds were lost, SEIU members will rally tomorrow at City Hall with alderman who support a Sweet Home Chicago Coalition proposal to dedicate 20 percent of the city’s TIF revenues to affordable housing.

The rally takes place on the 2nd floor of City Hall at 9 a.m., Wednesday, June 30.

“Union members are feeling the impact of the foreclosure crisis in their neighborhoods and see the ordinance as a way to reverse the trend of crime and abandonment,” according to a release from SEIU Local 1 and SEIU Healthcare.  The unions represent tens of thousands of Chicago residents.

Chicago Jobs With Justice is also participating in the rally.

A hearing on the ordinance at a joint meeting of the City Council’s finance and real estate committees is set for July  7.

The ordinance has 25 aldermanic cosponsors, according to Eithne McMenamin of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.  (For more on the ordinance see last October’s Newstip.)

Meanwhile the Raise Your Hand Coalition, which has received no response to a letter to Mayor Daley asking for a meeting on recapturing TIF funds for public schools, is preparing to launch a mass letter-writing and e-mail campaign to support the call, said Amy Smolensky.

The group, which includes parents at over 250 CPS schools, recently generated 120,000 letters and e-mails opposed to higher class sizes.  They were invited to a press conference yesterday where CPS chief Ron Huberman announced elementary class sizes would remain at current levels.

The coalition, which is dedicated to a long-term solution to Illinois schools’ chronic funding crisis, supports the Chicago Teacher’s Union call for greater budget transparency, Smolensky said.

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Good schools for all kids: Yes we can? http://www.newstips.org/2010/06/good-schools-for-all-kids-yes-we-can/ Mon, 14 Jun 2010 19:43:40 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=1954 It can happen here.  Indeed, it has happened here.

After federal spending on education and anti-poverty efforts ramped up in the 1960s, there came a point where urban schools were spending as much per pupil as suburban schools.  Racial disparities in achievement rates were cut in half, and were on track to disappear.   For a brief and unique moment in the mid-70s, black and Latino kids were attending college at rates comparable to whites.

Then came Reagan, who cut the education budget in half, and “conservatives introduced a new theory of reform focused on outcomes rather than inputs.”  That’s the theory behind what passes for school reform today.

This is from Linda Darling-Hammond’s contribution to the Nation’s special issue on A New Vision for School Reform.  She contrasts the United States with nations across Europe and Asia that she says are succeeding in providing high quality education to all their students.

The U.S. is “among the nations where socioeconomic background most affects student outcomes,” because we have greater income inequality “and because the United States spends much more educating affluent children than poor children.”  And in many states, segregation and inequality of funding is increasing.

The Obama-Duncan program doesn’t address (and probably exacerbates) funding inequalities, and what it does address won’t help.

Their framework “envisions competition and sanctions as the primary drivers of reform rather than capacity-building and strategic investments,” Darling-Hammond writes. “No nation has become high-achieving by sanctioning schools based on test-score targets and closing those that serve the neediest students without providing adequate resources and quality teaching.”

Elsewhere in the issue, Diane Ravitch writes about “Why I Changed My Mind” on No Child Left Behind and on the sloganeering around “choice” and “accountability” in education.

After the 2008 campaign, she writes, “I expected that Obama would throw out NCLB and start over.”  Instead, “his admininistration has embraced some of the worst features of the George W. Bush era.”

“None of the policies that involve testing and accountability – vouchers and charters, merit pay and closing schools – will give us the quantum improvement that we want for public education.  They may even make things worse.

“We need a long-term plan that strengthens public education and rebuilds the education profession,” including better-educated teachers, principals who are master teachers, rich curriculums, and attention to the conditions in which children live.

Susan Eaton compares magnet schools (with their mission of racial integration), with charters, which tend to “exacerbate segregation” and associated inequities.  (Black students in charters are twice as likely as their counterparts in traditional schools to attend segregated schools.)  That charters don’t upset the racial stratification of public education “may be exactly what makes them, at first glance, appear politically neater than magnet schools.”

David Kirp looks at community schools, which at their best can provide the kinds of things we know help kids learn: longer instructional time, more adults in the classroom, cultural and recreational programming, more parental involvement, and support services to remove obstacles to learning.  But so far Obama’s education department has been “better on rhetoric than dollars for community schools.”

Guest editor Pedro Noguera points out that no progress is likely until policy makers figure out “why NCLB failed to do more to improve schools in high-poverty communities” and “[reject] simplistic approaches.”

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