Funding in CPS and pension issues
A comment in the Skinner post reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post about the allegedly dire situation of funding for our schools. (For once, I use the phrase “allegdly” withouth sarcasm — I only say it because I don’t know the true situation of the funding and much of which I’ve heard has come from politicians which in Illinois I mean really… not a whole lot of trust there.)
I’ve been to 2 meetings in the past few months where a politician (someone familiar with the state budget) has alluded to funding cuts getting even more extreme next year. They say the truth is that Illinois is in dire circumstances in terms of money overall and that CPS will be significantly affected in the upcoming year.
Having served on a Local School Council for almost 2 terms now, it’s sickening to hear this given some of the crazy things I’ve learned about how a principal operates their school budget. For example:
-A growing neighborhood school (mine, for example) is adding one classroom a year as the school grows. CPS doesn’t pay for funding for furniture for the new classroom. That has to come out of the school’s own budget (much of which CPS provides, but it’s slim and hey, shouldn’t CPS be footing the bill for desks for new students?)
-Schools that are sending teachers for Professional Development for new textbooks/curriculum need to find a way to cover the cost of the substitute the day a teacher is out.
-CPS does not actually provide a teacher for each classroom. They give less than the full amount needed and the school needs to figure out how to fund the extra spots from their internal accounts. Growing schools are often in the position of begging for extra teaching spots at the begining of each year which is usually a fight with CPS.
For a little background, one of the problems that is frequently mentioned about CPS budgets is the “pension problem.” Back in the “good old days” (meaning 30+ years ago) CPS teachers were promised a pension if they stuck it out in the system for something like 34 years. (I know, you’d think plenty of people would have lost their minds facing a room full of 28 beasties year after year.) The pension provides something like 80% of their salary (calculated at retirement) and health benefits for life. If you start teaching in your mid twenties, you can retire in your late 50’s and you’re pretty well set. The problem is that 30+ years ago, nobody expected many of these teachers to live past, oh 76 or so. And we all know how that has changed. So the state is paying 80% salary for many people (women) who may live well to 100. I believe the “problem” applies to all city employees, but teachers happen to be the biggest single group.
CPS has tried to get the teachers’ union to allow a change to this which is a no go (I wouldn’t be too happy either if I’d busted my butt for 34 years only to have the city propose ripping me off as I’m set to schedule my Alaskan cruise.) However some of the city’s frustration is based on the teachers’ union’s refusal to revise the pension plan for new, incoming teachers. My personal opinion is that the world is different now and nobody else in the US is being promised such a generous pension. Plus we know that lifespan is making the plan virtually impossible to fund.
So…. I’m not trying to rile anyone up (especially the teachers who read the site and who make great contributions to the comments!) Just passing on what I hear out there in case people hear the term “pension problem” and are curious to know the background.
Mainly I just worry about what next year holds. I see these schools operating on such a miminal budget and things that are considered basics in the suburbs are being or have been cut. I can’t imagine what else there is to chop and I hate that it makes me question whether we’re doing our son a disservice by sticking it out in CPS.
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