How Daley's School Construction Plan Takes From CPS Even As It Gives

"TIF Geek" Ben Joravsky goes off in this week's Reader on the Daley school construction plan, which Joravsky says takes more money away from schools than it gives -- and highlights a problem with the state funding formula that rewards CPS for letting Daley divert TIF money from the schools.

"In one fell swoop, Daley managed to tweak the state for not paying more in education funds and look like the heroic protector of the citys schoolchildren, using the promise of new schools to camouflage the diversion by TIFs of millions from public education coffers."  (Link: Chicago Reader: The Works.)

UPDATE:  The Price of Daley's $1 Billion School Development Epoch Times
While one may argue that the "Modern Schools Across Chicago" project is
a shining example of the benefits of the TIF program, this 'free lunch'
as some have called itdue to beneficiaries receiving what they have
paid through increased assessmentsoften comes with a real cost.

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  • Ben Joravskys article in the Reader is excellent. But we all need to think about something that appeared in this article, which the two leading newspapers in Chicago have not really discussed at all. It is when Ben writes and of course TIFs do nothing to help the CPS address its chronic shortage of operating cash. This is a very big issue that has not really ever been looked at by education reporters in this town. The CPS was placed on the ISBE finical watch list in the of 04-05 school year because of the cash flow issue.

    Central office administrators know only too well this cash flow problem. There have been numerous times in the last four years where by May the CPS was not paying bills in a timely manner, in effect waiting until the next fiscal year to pay them. One year major administrative units had no photo copy paper, just like schools by the way, by the end of the fiscal year. One time the CPS even suspended having cleaning done of its offices.

    The biggest issue is that the new capital plan makes no sense when the size of the districts student population is declining. The Civic Federation made this point last year in its review of the CPS budget. The reason for new schools is sadly the racial divide in Chicago. Under utilized facilities are located in African American and largely white communities and not in Hispanic ones. But there is no excuse for building new schools in Lakeview. The truth of the matter is the CPS and the city can not afford the Mayors obsession with building, whether it is parks, new schools, or senior citizens housing. And please lets not even think about a build up for a possible Olympics, goodness how much for debt would that cause?

    What happens if there is an actual decline of property values in Chicago? Given some of the inflated property values such a development is not impossible. How will these bonds be paid off if that happens? Really what I am seeing is very disturbing and a major fiscal breakdown in Chicago will only result in more cuts to classrooms and schools. Whoever becomes Mayor following Daley will inherit a lot of wonderful structures, parks, and other things. But he or she will also get stuck with the bill, a bill that will never be paid off in my life time and may not be in my childrens life times.

  • A new high school will be built in the Irving Park community, which I agree is not Lakeview. Now I do not know where but it is clear there is a major middle class invasion going on west of Lakeview. Moreover if the high school is a prep-Academy who do you all think will be getting their kids into that school? Moreover, schools like Bateman which were largely Hispanic and had addtions attached because of overcrowding are now seeing a major decline in students.

    Do you think it will be low income kids from the northwest side with low test scores?

    I find it an interesting agruement that CPS high schools need to be replaced because they are too old. Harvard University and even Northwestern have plenty of buildings that are far older, been rehabed a dozen times and are still used. Lakeview high school where I went is one of the oldest schools in the city and it is fully functional and looks better than when I went their years ago.

    The truth of the matter is that many rehab projects for schools that were on various versions of the capital improvement plan have yet to be completed. Now we are going ahead with new schools.

    As I indicated in the earlier post our problem in Chicago is not space in schools for students, but rather where these schools are located by the racial composition of the community.

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