CPS faces $1B budget deficit in 2013: Renda editorial - FOX 32 News Chicago

CPS faces $1B budget deficit in 2013: Renda editorial

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Now that the smoke has cleared from the fireworks of the Chicago Teacher's strike, it's time for CPS to make some very tough decisions – there's a budget deficit of $1 billion in the coming fiscal year of 2013 staring them in the face.

It is time to get serious about cutting costs in a very dramatic way and it will not be very popular. CPS needs to enact two major cost savings efforts in a very aggressive way.

First, CPS must take the painful steps of closing many schools in the district. There have been many estimates that as many as 100 schools need to be closed that are underutilized due to low enrollment. Schools can be consolidated in many neighborhoods allowing for teacher layoffs and reduction of capital costs for building upkeep. Estimates are that each school closing could result in over a million dollars of savings. Many of these schools being closed could be replaced by privately run charters to offer parents better choices. Transparency and open honest dialogues on which schools will be closed will be imperative.

Second, pension reform in cooperation with the state legislature must happen immediately. The Civic Federation of Chicago estimates that the school system must pay $200 million in 2013 and over $500 million in 2014 to cover teacher pension costs. The bottom line is this - CPS cannot afford the pension promises it made. The deferral of these stark realities must stop now and a smart well thought out plan must be presented to the legislature. We all know that this is a very emotional issue but the very existence of the school system is at stake. Major adjustments to retirement age, increased contributions and lower cost of living increases must be included to reduce costs.

Let's face it; there is nowhere to go – no reserves, no rainy day funds, no magic solution. CPS, along with the Mayor, must show strong leadership to finally deal with the school districts financial future.

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