Facing an estimated $427 million FY 2011 deficit, the Chicago Board of Education gave CPS CEO Ron Huberman emergency power to raise class sizes and lay-off almost 3,000 public school teachers. The schools’ chief has not agreed to follow through with that plan quite yet. Instead, he’s offering a “menu of possible concessions” to the Chicago Teachers Union and its new president-elect, Karen Lewis. Neither side will disclose what’s on the list, although Lewis told the Reader’s Hunter Clauss that she’s hoping to survey her members this summer to find out exactly where they are willing to budge. “These official actions were partly procedural, and partly a way for Huberman and the board to publicly and skillfully back the teachers union into a corner,” adds Catalyst’s Sarah Karp.
In several print and television interviews yesterday morning, Lewis offered Huberman some alternative ways to trim costs. The new president set her sights on the city’s contracts with consultants, which she said cost $300 million per year. She also discussed trimming the central office payroll and eliminating a $60 million program that provides curriculum packages and coaching to high schools. But to get a clear sense of the Daley administration’s priorities, and find out where waste might exist, Lewis stressed that the budgeting process needs to be considerably more transparent to teachers and parents alike.
It took repeated Freedom of Information Act requests, for example, for the city to post basic payroll information online. And they’ve ignored consistent appeals to provide serious internal data on the effect of the city’s tax increment financing system (TIF) on schools. From her acceptance speech this weekend (watch it here):