May 13, 2024 - News

Johnson's tepid reception on Springfield trip

Photo illustration of Brandon Johnson with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

State lawmakers delivered no commitments to boost Chicago Public Schools funding during Mayor Brandon Johnson's trip to Springfield last week, but they did deliver a bit of a snub.

Why it matters: With a nearly $400 million deficit expected next year and teachers union contract talks coming up, most agree CPS needs the additional funding.

Between the lines: Last month, Johnson touted his Springfield experience and "strong relationships" with legislative leaders as a sign of his capital clout.

  • But in the middle of his visit, a key Senate committee advanced a measure the mayor and Chicago Teachers Union vehemently oppose.

Zoom in: House Bill 303 would prevent the CPS school board from cutting selective enrollment school budgets more than other schools' and halt school closures — including charters — until February 2027, when a fully elected board takes over.

  • It would be a blow to the current board's plan to prioritize giving resources to neighborhood schools over selectives and charters.
  • The measure has already cleared the House and is headed to the full Senate.

What they're saying: "We have a duty to protect the schools from irreversible damage until we have a fully elected school board that will have to be accountable to the voters of Chicago as well as the parents and families," bill sponsor state Rep. Margaret Croke, a Chicago Democrat, said last month.

The other side: The teachers union has called the bill "racist" for its potential to prevent funds from moving to under-resourced schools from well-resourced ones.

During a Springfield press conference, Johnson characterized the advancement of the bill during his visit as "a process." And when asked what funding commitments he'd secured on the trip, he said:

  • "What we received is a real commitment that we have to address these issues."

By the numbers: The district faces a nearly $400 million deficit next year when federal COVID funding runs out.

  • In his most recent budget, Gov. JB Pritzker allocated just $350 million in additional funds for all Illinois K-12 schools to share.

What's next: Rep. William Davis (D-Hazel Crest) told ABC7 that if Johnson wanted to pursue a more realistic path to helping CPS "he would join me in asking for an additional $200 million into the school funding formula that would increase it to $550 million."

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