The CPS has announced they will lay off a first round of 663 jobs. The layoffs include teachers, teaching assistants, bus aides. The CPS is doing this because those positions are no longer needed after they decided to close 49 elementary schools and 1 high school to save money.
It cost an estimated $90-$100 million to build Solorio Academy - one of the most expensive high schools ever built in Illinois. Was it wise to spend that kind of money, when there are so many schools being underutilized; 139 are less than 50% utilized. (SA photo)
The CPS is broke. That's what they tell us. The CPS is expecting a one billion dollar budget deficit in 2014. (read here and here).
But whoever is making the decisions at the CPS sure are not making the right decisions to make it any better. First of all the CPS decided to make sure they go deeper in the hole after they gave in to the teachers union by giving the teachers an incredible pay increase after the teachers striked last fall.
The CPS is seriously considering closing 100 schools. The biggest reason is to save money because so many schools are being underutilized. In other words, we have too many schools with too few students enrolled. We have too many schools designed for a certain number of students, but the actual enrollment is way under the number that the school was designed for. The CPS also has too many schools. There are at least 20-25 CPS high schools with an enrollment under 500 students.
I feel that the last 15-20 years the CPS made way too many schools and now we are going to face to consequences.
Solorio soccer players practice at the state of the art new artifical field turf at Solorio.(SA photo)
Case in point, Solorio Academy. Solorio was completed in 2010. It has some of the best facilities in the CPS- complete with 5 computer labs, 6 lane swimming poool, an artificial field turf, and a really nice gym. The soccer and football teams are up and coming. I'm glad the students and the community get to enjoy a nice school.
But at what cost? It costs an estimated $90-$100 million dollars to build Solorio- one of the most expensive high schools ever built in Illinois. However, no one ever asked if we really need the school. So many schools are underutilized. According to a Tribune article: "The district says underuse will be the key factor in deciding what
schools to close. According to the list released Tuesday, enrollment at
330 of the 681 total schools is below 80 percent of what the district
has determined to be the ideal population. Of those, 139 schools are
only half full or less."
Was it really wise to spend $90 million (mostly Chicago tax payer money) when so many schools in the CPS are underutilized?
I know the southwest side of Chicago has a lot of people and may have needed another school. However, the CPS should have closed or consolidated schools in the other parts of the city BEFORE spending such a huge sum on another school.
Combine the decision to spend the money to make Solorio with other questionable decisions like giving the teachers their pay raise and you got some major reasons why the CPS is in such a financial mess.
If you live in the north side of Chicago, you may not notice it because there are a lot of people and a lot of bustling businesses up in the north side. But on the west and south side it's another story. There is a population flight out of the city in those parts of the town.
According to a Tribune article:
CPS blames the city's population decline, especially on the South and
West sides, for much of the drop in school enrollment. Citing 2010 U.S.
census data, CPS said Chicago now has about 145,000 fewer children ages
19 and under than it did a decade ago.
So what does this have to do with sports? With less kids in the city, that means more schools are being underutilized. It's simple, there are too many schools and too few kids to house them at proper numbers. So the CPS is seriously considering closing schools. Maybe 100. Less schools mean less sports teams.
You gotta give people a reason to want to live in the city
Now the question is, why there are so many people leaving the city? This is a complicated issue. But to me it is simple, you gotta give people a reason to want to live in the city. See there are many reasons why people decide to live where they want to live. For kids, they don't have that choice it is up to their parents or adults that they are living with. For adults, there are a lot of factors. Some of them include: if family is lving close by, are things cheaper, are schools better, is housing better, do I live close to work, are taxes lower, will I be happy here, do I see a future in this part of town, and much much more.
I'm not going to dive into this complicated issue in one blog post. But I will say this, when faced with two alternatives of living in the city or living somewhere else, more and more people are calling somewhere else the better alternative for their family - and that will have an impact for all.
In one month, the CPS will release a list of schools that it will recommend to close. According to a Tribune article, the CPS could close upto 120 schools.
The reason why they are closing so many schools is a combination of mismanagement of real estate and resources, population flight, and cost cutting. Let's look at the factors:
Mismanagement of real estate and resources
Think about all the recently opened new CPS high schools. In just the last 10 years or the CPS has opened schools like: UIC College Prep, Rickover Naval Academy, Bulls College Prep, Ford Powerhouse, Solario, and other schools that only the biggest CPS freak will be able to name. Well, for every school that opens it siphons off kids from other schools. The CPS has done a good job opening new schools, but they have done a poor job closing schools that are now under utilized.
The population in the city of Chicago is getting smaller. People are leaving for the suburbs and other greener pastures. There is also a segment of the population that are what I call transients. That is, residents from areas like Bucktown, Edgewater, Lincoln Park, and other trendy nieghborhood who live in those neighborhoods for a while because they are cool. Then, they either leave before they have kids, or if they stay many choose to send their kids to montesorri, private schools, or other options instead of sending them to CPS schools. Another factor for population flight is the economy. I'm sure the poor economy in Chicago has something to do with it. I know many people who have left Chicago for the suburbs or other states because that is where the jobs are at. As a result of this and other trends, the overall CPS district enrollment has declined by 34,000 students.
The CPS is broke and it is getting worse. The CPS is expecting a record $1 billion dollar deficit in 2014. Closing schools will save the CPS money.
On December 1, 2012 look at this blog. On that date the CPS will release the schools they will recommend to close. I suspect your eyes will open when you see some high schools on there. Let's hope it's not yours.
CPS Bond Ratings Downgraded Bodes Poorly for Facilities Funding
The financial trouble hole has just gotten deeper for the CPS. According to Reuter's "Moodys' Investors service downgraded on Tuesday the rating on Chicago Board of Education's general obligation debt to A1 from Aa3 and revised the outlook to negative from stable."
What this means is that the cost of borrowing has increased for the CPS. It will cost more to borrow money. This includes borrowing more to pay for sports facilities.
The CPS has a $665 million budget deficit. They have tried almost everything to try to reduce the deficit including "cutting over a half billion dollars last year alone", said CPS spokesperson Becky Carroll. The CPS even cut sophomore sports for a season two years ago to help cut costs. To help pay for the deficit, the CPS has even dipped into "rainy day funds" to the tune of $432 million. Chicago tax payers have even helped pitched in by getting leavied the maximum rate on their property taxes.
In other words, the CPS has tried to borrow their way out of this hole. But that is not working because this Moody downgrade will now increase borrowing costs. The CPS has tried taxing their way out of this hole by increasing property taxes to the maximum amount. The CPS has tried using their savings to help us survive this hole - but the rainy day fund will not last forever. The CPS has even tried to cut expenses to get out of the hole, by cutting over $500 million. All of it has failed. Borrowing has failed, taxing has failed, and cutting has failed.
I''ll be very direct on this. But the only group of persons that has not been affected by this financial hole are teachers unions. Tax payers are pitching in by taxes, and CPS administration has cut. Meanwhile, teachers have not only been unaffected by cuts, they are getting pay increases. They are owed 2% in pay increases this year- and get this want a 30% pay increase on top of that.
Some people may not like me for saying what I said the last paragraph. But I live in realville. The reality is, the CPS is broke and it cannot afford to pay for more teachers (or any CPS employee's pay increasese). Go ahead and blast what I say. But when you do that please answer one question to add to your comments: "How are we going to pay for it?" Like I said we tried raising taxes, we tried a new mayor and CPS head (Daley's gone), we tried cutting CPS administration, and we tried borrowing. All have failed. Where are we going to get the money to get out of this hole? And don't expect to get handouts from the state of Illinois or the Federal government, because they are more broke than the CPS?
I got this email from a reader. Afterwords is my candid response:
I have a few questions about the strike vote and a possible sports impact:
1) If the CPS teachers go out on strike - what happens to conference play?
2) what has happened in the past?
3) Can teams still meet? practice? compete?
4) What about at the IHSA level?
5) Should cps strike during regionals and sectionals can the CPS teams compete? Can indivs compete in sports that allow that like cross country and golf?
6) Has CPS sports addressed this with the AD's?
7) Is there a plan?
I think there might people interested in finding out the answers to some of these questions!?!?!?
Thanks again for all of your support and hard work on behalf of all the CPS athletes!
I have been through the pain of a CPS high school strike when I was a student in the 1980's- the last time the CPS teachers went on a strike.
What happened back then was during the teachers strike all formal athletic activities ceased to exists immediately. This includes formal practice, meets, games, playoff games, etc. As for playoffs, the IHSA has a minimum number of games or meets that a team must participate in before they are legally allowed to participate in the state series. Each sport has a different number. In football it may be 4 games, in cross country it may be 3 meets. There are IHSA rules for each sport. I do know in the 80's, the school season started as normal and teams were able to get some games/meets in. Then, the strike happened sometime in September. At that point, all of our games and practices were cancelled. That was the worse period of my life, because it was my senior year and I really looked forward to the the precious few cross country meets. I think we got in 1 or 2 early meets, then 1-2 late meets by the time the strike ended. By the time the city meet started, it was basically a skeleton city meet because some teams decided to cancel their whole season. Of course, Lane runners still ran unofficially during the strike so we were ready. But frankly, the city meet sucked because half the teams were not there. We would have won anyways, but that is a season that has to have an asterisk to it.
All teams from all CPS schools suffered. The Lane football team had it especially hard. I think going into the season, they went into the year ranked in the area. They had this super QB named Kevin Krebs. Krebs, was like 6-5, 230lbs, had a super arm and ended up accepting a scholarship for Northwestern University where he was on the NU Rose Bowl team. At the end they had to scramble to meet the minimum number of games. They barely got the minimum number of games to make the state playoffs but lost a good game to Mt. Carmel.
I'll say this. Nobody wins- except for the pocketbooks of teachers and their unions. The students lose, good teachers lose, tax payers lose, and especially student athletes lose who are entering their senior years.
When CPS Chief Jean Claude Brizard visited Jones College Prep, some students asked him if the CPS is going to open up more selective enrollment high schools, here is what he said. He said that neighborhood schools are still the "huge focus." However, “The city cannot only have selectives, but at the same time, when you look at 24,000, 25,000, 30,000 people applying for 5,000 seats across the city, clearly there is a need and there is a want and there is a demand for that kind of school,” Brizard said.
I'm not exactly sure how opening more Selective Enrollment High Schools will affect the city. I do know that out of the 9 varsity city championships last spring, 7 of them were won by selective enrollment high schools.
The CPS has an $800 million budget. The state owes the district over $200 million. Faced with money problems like this something is bound to suffer.
The first items they are thinking of chopping completely or reducing is after school programs, early education, charter schools, after school programs, and get this sports.
I saw this coming. In previous posts, I talked about questionable CPS spending like social change programs, politics, free breakfast, and social justice. These programs are not free, they come at cost. This type of spending is unsustainable and eventually something would have to give. Now, unfortunately, it looks like the things that will give are going to be after school programs and sports. Mark my word, the CPS with their convoluted thinking will cut sports and after school programs way before they will consider cutting their own salaries, cutting these new community organizing schools like the new Chicago Talent Development High School, getting rid of questionable unionized service workers for their free breakfast program, or halting pay raises to unions.
Unfortunately, this is the agenda of the CPS. They would rather cut after school programs than cut union salaries and their own pay raises.