CPS sues state over funding, says it violates students' rights

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
CPS sues state over funding, says it violates students' rights
A new lawsuit claimed the state discriminated against Chicago Public School students.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new lawsuit claimed the state discriminated against Chicago Public School students. Five families and the school board want to force the state to provide equal funding for Chicago Public Schools compared to other schools in the state.

While CPS' predominantly black and Latino children made up 20% of Illinois public school students the district claimed it received only 15% of the money the state appropriated for education.

"The state's separate and unequal funding system cannot stand a moral test and it cannot withstand a legal test," Forrest Claypool, CPS CEO, said.

Claypool called the alleged racial discrimination "insidious" and the district's chief education officer called it "deliberate," as they announced the lawsuit that named Governor Bruce Rauner among the defendants:

"It is unlawful to fund the educations of poor African-American and Latinos at levels significantly below those of the predominantly white children in the rest of the state of Illinois," Claypool said.

The governor--who assumed office two years ago--accused CPS of mismanaging state as well as local taxpayer monies. He formed a commission to study and recommend changes in the state's school funding formula and said his administration did more for education than his Democratic predecessors.

"Since Governor Rauner has come into office two years ago he has raised pre-k through 12 funding by over $700 million," Beth Purvis, secretary of education, said.

Claypool--whose CPS is virtually bankrupt-- denied playing "the race card" or indirectly calling Rauner a racist.

"He has cemented this racially discriminatory system so he's helped perpetuate it through his actions," Claypool said.

Outside of the news conference, several dozen Lindblom students blamed Claypool for the district's fiscal issues and for not taking legal action sooner.

"Why did it have to take this long to get there? Why do we have to do this in order to get attention to our education? Why?" Jasmine Romero, a CPS student, said.

The lawsuit also named State Board of Education Chairman Reverend James Meeks--an African-American--as a defendant.

While the lawsuit is not likely to be decided quickly, CPS is facing layoffs and classroom cuts to make ends meet this year.

"I want to reinforce the urgency of what's happening today and that this really is our last stand," Janice Jackson, CPS chief education officer, said.

The CPS action is similar to a pending lawsuit filed several years ago by the Chicago Urban League alleging funding discrimination.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union president, Karen Lewis, was skeptical. She called it "a fake fight," noting that the conversation about funding inequality is many years old.

The governor's office said, "CPS received $74 million over and above what they should have in FY16 even though they had declining enrollment, fewer kids in poverty and rising property values. In addition, they also received $250 million in a block grant that no other district in the state receives. In all, they received more than $324 million more than any other district in Illinois."