The Chicago school board sued Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and the Illinois State Board of Education Tuesday, alleging that the state employs “separate and unequal systems of funding for public education in Illinois.”
The lawsuit was filed in the Cook County Chancery Division on behalf of five Chicago Public Schools families, and the Chicago Tribune reports that it asks that the state be barred from distributing state aid in “a manner that discriminates against plaintiffs.”
“The state treats CPS’s schoolchildren, who are predominantly African American and Hispanic, as second-class children, relegated to the back of the state’s education-funding school bus,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit claims that the state has “separate but unequal” pension-funding obligations as well; there is one for CPS and one for the state, and the suit asks that this be found in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
According to the Tribune, the lawsuit is the latest fight in an ongoing battle between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school district and Gov. Rauner’s administration over education funding. At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, CPS officials said the lawsuit represents a last-ditch effort for a district “on the brink.”
“I want to reinforce the urgency of what’s happening today and that this really is our last stand,” CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said. “We have hoped for a legislative solution, and that has not happened. Therefore, we’re left with this as an option.”
District Chief Forrest Claypool said, “We can wait no longer. CPS is on the brink.”
Rauner’s education secretary, Beth Purvis, said in a statement that the state is still reviewing the lawsuit. “But it is important to remember that the bipartisan, bicameral school-funding commission just issued its report, which recommends an equitable funding formula that defines adequacy according to the needs of students within each district,” Purvis said.
The report Purvis referred to was recently released by the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission and called for an increase of at least $3.5 billion in school money over the next decade. While the report said that more money should be spent on districts with a higher population of poor students, it did not provide a detailed formula for state officials to use.
In other words, a whole lot of talk, but no real solutions for CPS.
“The governor remains focused on moving forward these recommendations and hopes that CPS will be a partner in that endeavor,” Purvis said.
This is not the first time the state of Illinois has been accused of racial discrimination in its educational funding. The Chicago Urban League filed a lawsuit in 2008 saying the state discriminates against families based on race. That lawsuit, which also cites the Illinois Civil Rights Act, is still pending.
Another lawsuit, filed in 2010 by two Illinois homeowners who said the state’s education-funding system discriminates against against taxpayers based on where they live, was ultimately dismissed.
From the Tribune:
CPS is in the midst of instituting midyear budget cuts for the second year in a row. The district has put in place four furlough days, a $46 million school spending freeze, $18 million in potential cuts to independently operated schools and the elimination of $5 million in training programs to make up for the unrealized assumption that state lawmakers would send $215 million to the district’s annual budget.
Rauner vetoed a measure in December that would’ve provided that money, saying Democrats went back on a deal that tied the aid to broader changes to the state’s employee retirement system.
The sparring between Rauner’s administration and CPS played out again last week in dueling letters addressed to parents of students at the financially troubled district.
In her letter, Purvis accused CPS of trying to “arbitrarily create a crisis” with “a curiously timed and unfortunate announcement” of cuts that were laid out even as lawmakers work on proposals that include more money for the system.
CPS parents also received a letter from Claypool, who wrote that “Gov. Rauner, just like President [Donald] Trump, has decided to attack those who need the most help.”
“The clock is ticking for our schools and our kids, and for CPS,” Claypool said Tuesday, noting that filing the lawsuit in chancery court was meant to accelerate a potential injunctive ruling before the district takes on “even more painful steps” to balance its current budget.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.