Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 16, 2024
Chicago Teachers Union and CPS Demand State Funding Increase Amid Contract Bargaining and Budget PressureSource: Facebook/Chicago Teachers Union

The battle for school funding in Illinois heats up as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) leaders made their case at the Capitol Wednesday, demanding that the state fulfill its promises for financial support. Brandishing signs and chanting for change, over 200 CTU members took a stand for what they call an owed $1 billion increase based on a 2017 state funding overhaul, per reports from the Chicago Tribune.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez articulated the budget woes during a WTTW News interview, stating, "When you hear the billion-dollar number, to be factual, that is actually the amount that we are underfunded based on the state's own formula." Despite recognizing the enormity of the funding gap, Martinez was clear that CPS does not expect an immediate resolution but highlighted the urgency of the matter as they fight for additional funds to be allocated toward education.

With the clock ticking towards May 24 adjournment, Illinois lawmakers are under pressure to reconcile Gov. J.B. Pritzker's $52.7 billion budget proposal with the needs outlined by CTU. Both CTU and CPS leaders have emphasized the potential ramifications of the fiscal cliff approaching as federal COVID-19 relief funds dry up, and they are steadfast in their pursuit of what they consider rightful funding.

The CTU has not only voiced concerns over financial matters but is also bargaining a new CTU contract; they seek 9% annual pay increases and more resources for students and staff, as per a statement obtained by the Chicago Tribune. Throughout this ongoing debate, State Rep. Will Davis has endorsed an increase in statewide educational spending to $550 million, though he acknowledges the CTU's request is likely impractical. Davis, who serves as the House Appropriations Committee chair that oversees K-12 funding, highlighted the budgetary constraints and called for support from multiple parties, including Mayor Brandon Johnson and the CTU.

Opponents of the funding push, such as State Sen. Donald DeWitte, have accused the CTU and CPS of seeking an unfair advantage. "For the mayor and now his minions in the Chicago Teachers Union to come down here, try to bully lawmakers into more money they claim they are being shortchanged, is absolutely outrageous," DeWitte charged at a press conference, a story covered in the Chicago Tribune. There's also pushback on teachers being paid to lobby, challenged by State Sen. Sue Rezin's comments to WTTW News, decrying the act as a misuse of taxpayer funds.

The endgame for this year's educational funding hangs in the balance, with a hard deadline looming for legislators to craft and pass a budget that could determine the immediate future of educational resources for the state's largest school district.