Exclusive: Chicago Public Schools enlists parents for unprecedented blitz on Springfield

ABC7 I-Team Exclusive
CHICAGO (WLS) -- After nearly four months without a state budget in Illinois, a new front has opened in the war on Springfield.

Chicago Public Schools officials are mobilizing parents to press state leaders for a solution to the standoff between the governor and democrats.

It is an unorthodox frontal assault on Springfield by CPS officials - with the blessing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. CPS is drafting parents to lobby for a solution to the state budget crisis, arming parents with bullet points that include a 22 percent cut in teachers if the standoff doesn't end.

The ABC7 I-team got an exclusive look at the planned blitz on state leaders by a coalition of school leaders, principals and parents that has angered the Chicago Teachers Union.

"This is an extraordinary fiscal crisis. There's been nothing like it ever in the history of the Chicago Public Schools," said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

As Illinois' budget hole deepens, Chicago schools are sucked into the abyss.

On top of a $1 billion long-term CPS deficit, there is a $500 million hole in the current budget that has to be plugged by Feb. 1, 2016.

"Chicago has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars by Springfield. Those policies are wrong. They're potentially illegal, they're immoral... if Springfield doesn't act, we cannot keep those cuts out of our classroom," Claypool said.

According to a version of a letter being sent to parents, there will be an imminent cut in teachers if there is no Springfield budget by November; a cut of 5,000 teachers by the start of the second semester.

So CPS asks parents to "call upon" Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, and flood Springfield with emails, letters and phone calls.

"This is a Hail Mary pass to parents to shift blame," said Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union.

The union's response to this CPS initiative: school officials are trying to "goad parents into lobbying; trying to shame Springfield" in acting. They say the effort would be "laughable, if not so offensive" and is "disrespectful to concerned parents."

"The CTU has sat on the sidelines and declined to join us in Springfield even though their members have the most at stake," Claypool said.

"In every way teachers have skin in the game. I mean, we've never had anything but skin in the game! Who goes to work every day in these schools? Who has to struggle under difficult conditions? Who tries to make school work every day when we're not given the tools that we need to make it work?" Sharkey said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Rauner says since last Friday, about 15 percent of the emails and letters they have received have been about state funding to Chicago schools.

"Constituents call, email and send letters to the Governor's Office on a daily basis, and since last Friday about 15 percent of those have been about state funding to CPS. Education is extremely important to the governor, which is why he signed legislation to increase education funding to record levels this year while presenting the only comprehensive plan to save CPS more than $400 million, while helping districts across the state. We urge the Mayor and members of the General Assembly to work with the Governor to help pass the reforms the district needs," said Rauner spokesperson Catherine Kelly in a statement.

Speaker Madigan's spokesperson says there has been a steady flow of public calls about the budget situation, but no uptick this week.

The ABC7 I-Team did not hear back from Senate President Cullerton.

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