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Senate Dems on CPS crisis: school children aren’t political pawns

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A Cook County judge rejected a Chicago Public Schools injunction request in its state education funding lawsuit today. The school district needs an additional $215 million for pensions to avoid an early shutdown on June 1. CPS does not have the funds necessary to finish the school year and make their required pension payment. Senate Democrats reacted to the ruling with the following statements:

“The General Assembly has a responsibility to make sure the academic progress of Chicago’s children is not disrupted due to our governor’s unwillingness to help them. His rhetoric has done nothing but alienate these children, and their education is not a political pawn.” – Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood)

“I want to be very clear in explaining what this lawsuit is really about. CPS educates almost 20% of all students statewide, yet receives 15% of state funding. That means that for every dollar the state spends on educating students outside the city limits, a CPS student only gets 74 cents. This lawsuit is about equality.

“90% of students in CPS are students of color. If we truly believe that education is a solution to inequality, it is time to start acting like it.

“With a Cook County judge ruling against CPS and in favor of Illinois’ discriminatory, worst-in-the-nation school funding formula, Governor Rauner’s political divisiveness and disregard for our communities has full approval to continue. It is time to reform the school funding formula before Governor Rauner forces a CPS shutdown and anywhere from 2 to 2.5 million students are unable to go to school.” - Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago)

“This ruling underscores the need in Chicago and the rest of Illinois for a fair public education funding system and a comprehensive state budget to back it up. That remains my top priority at the Capitol, and I would encourage everyone set aside politics and work toward compromise.”  - Senate President John J. Cullerton (D-Chicago)

“Chicago students are at risk of having their education disrupted by the governor’s political agenda, and unfortunately this court ruling has failed to protect them. It is unacceptable that 2.5 million students labor under an unfair and unequal funding system. We owe it to them and to the future generations of Chicago to fund this system equitably.”  – Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago)

“Illinois school districts are in a state of emergency, and I’ve seen little evidence that the governor understands the magnitude of their crisis.”

“Somehow, lawsuits, social media campaigns and thunderous rallies outside the doors of his office aren’t getting the message across to him. News reports about districts nearly missing payroll, cutting programs and laying off teachers apparently aren’t setting off alarms, either, because he’s done very little to move the ball forward on school funding reform.

“Superintendents and parents are sending a clear message to Springfield: their schools can’t survive much longer under the status quo. It’s up to Gov. Rauner to bring lawmakers together to get a balanced budget and to revamp the state’s school funding formula. Only then can we begin to ensure all students benefit from fair and adequate school funding in Illinois.” - Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill)

“Governor Rauner has made it clear that Chicago’s children are just pawns in his political game, but I am hopeful that enough members of the General Assembly will come together to provide Chicago Public Schools with the same level of funding that every other school district receives. It’s time to put politics aside and put our children and their education first.” - State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago)

“Children throughout Chicago now face a possibility that their education may be irreparably harmed due to the financial situation CPS faces. The last thing we should be doing is playing politics with any child’s education. Instead, the General Assembly needs to move forward on a funding formula that properly supports all children’s education, including those in Chicago.” - Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago)

State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) responded to Rauner Education Secretary Beth Purvis calling the fair funding lawsuit a “distraction.”

“Our children are not a distraction. I resent the implication that low income children in my district are a distraction. The children of Chicago are facing the real possibility of having their academic progress disrupted.”

“Governor Rauner continues to play political games and refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Time after time, he has turned his back on Chicago’s students.

“It is absolutely unfair and unacceptable for children in some parts of our state to receive better education than others and for the governor and the state to sit by and do nothing.”