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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rahm's school budget takes from kids with disabilities to give more to charters

Rod Estvan
“This budget does not even attempt to formulate a plan to address the structural deficit the district is faced with.” -- Access Living’s budget analyst Rod Estvan 
The latest proposed Chicago Public Schools budget, due to be voted on tomorrow will badly hurt children with disabilities, says Estvan.

The problem is part of the city's inability to generate enough revenue to run a high-quality, equitable school system. It stems in large part, from the mayor's unwillingness to fairly tax the city's biggest corporations and LaSalle St., choosing instead to balance his budget on the backs of those least able to bear the weight -- children with special needs and retirees.

Rahm's hand-picked school board intends to pass his budget in its existing form, which uses an accounting trick of collecting 14 months of property tax revenue to pay for 12 months of expenses. Tim Cawley, the district’s administrative officer, told a crowd at a state-required budget hearing last week that this one-time fix is intended to “buy time” until the state could resolve the pension problem.

Tricks and sleight-of-hand aside, Emanuel has failed to make a dent in the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers. 

The budget proposes cutting $67 million at neighborhood schools and adding $62 million more to charter schools over last year. Charters aren't required to enroll disabled students, kids with special needs or students who speak English as a second language.

Special education positions are actually down over the 8,890 in the district at the end of the 2014 fiscal year, according to Estvan. Among those cut were an occupational therapist, 10 school nurses, seven school psychologists and three social workers, according to the analysis. CPS also added 15 speech pathologists and three health services nurses. 

Rahm's likely opponent in next year's election, Karen Lewis is calling for a "LaSalle St. Tax" as part of a reformed and more equitable taxing system. She opposes Rahm's call for more pension theft. 

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