Investigation Launched Into Chicago Public Schools’ Finances

Green silhouettes of children are displayed on the glass windows at the Chicago Public Schools headquarters in April 2015 on West Madison Street. (Anthony Souffle, Chicago Tribune)
Green silhouettes of children are displayed on the glass windows at the Chicago Public Schools headquarters in April 2015 on West Madison Street. (Anthony Souffle, Chicago Tribune)

The Illinois State Board of Education launched an investigation of Chicago Public Schools’ finances Thursday, two weeks after Gov. Bruce Rauner ordered a review of the district’s books as part of his call for a state takeover. 

The state has asked CPS to turn over a large amount of financial information by the first week of March, including details on the district’s cash flow and major contracts. The request was made in a letter sent Thursday to CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Chicago school board President Frank Clark by ISBE Superintendent Tony Smith and Chairman James Meeks.

The state’s request comes after Claypool and leading state Democrats said Rauner’s moves to take over the district had no legal basis. The governor has pushed legislation to allow for state takeover of CPS and on Feb. 2 ordered ISBE to identify a potential interim superintendent.

ISBE said CPS was put on “financial watch status” in March 2015. That allows the state to require financial information “relevant to a proper investigation of the district’s financial condition and the delivery of appropriate state financial, technical, and consulting services to the district,” ISBE said in its letter.

Financial information sought by state officials also includes three-year financial projections and assumptions, monthly payroll amounts and debt schedules that could determine if more state aid or other revenue are needed to pay off debt instead of financing operations.

“As you may be aware, an investigation into a district’s financial condition is the first step in a process of determining if conditions exist for ‘certification of financial difficulty,'” ISBE said in its letter.

“Our sincere hope is that the forthcoming investigation will identify opportunities for actions to be taken that will improve the financial condition of Chicago Public Schools … and, most importantly, result in fiscal stability.”

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Source: Chicago Tribune | Juan Perez Jr.