A newly-acquired secret agreement obtained in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) confirms that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) diverted about $70 million, largely from teacher salaries and unemployment benefits, to avoid paying teachers a promised 4 percent contractual raise last school year. The money was instead given to the Chicago Police Department (CPD), mostly as payment for services previously rendered under prior agreements. CPS then falsely told the media that these payments were “owed” to CPD, and that CPS “had no choice” but to make these payments.
Records obtained from the FOIA lawsuit show that CPS has been paying about $8 million per year to CPD since 2002 for two police officers to be stationed at approximately 100 high schools to process arrests of juvenile offenders. The officers are supervised exclusively by CPD personnel. CPS provides, at its own expense, computer terminals connected to CPD for the officers’ use. CPS approved this continuing arrangement on February 24, 2010 (10-0224-PR16), authorizing the $8 million annual payments from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2012, for a total cost of $32.8 million.
In 2011, CPS claimed to be broke. On June 15, 2011, in their first meeting, the newly-installed Emanuel appointed School Board voted to cancel a promised 4 percent raise for teachers in the 2011-12 school year on the grounds that there wasn’t enough money in the budget and the district faced an alleged $712 million deficit (11-0615-RS2). This also negatively impacted the pensions of any teachers who retired at the end of the 2011/12 school year. In 2007, under Mayor Richard M. Daley and then-CPS chief officer Arne Duncan, teachers signed a five-year contract ending with the 2011/2012 school year that granted them the raises.
But a month after CPS cancelled last school years 4 percent raises to CPS teachers, which would have cost an estimated $80 million, CPS then authorized a renegotiation of its CPD deal to pay the Police about $25 million per year, more than three times the agreed amount, for the same time period 2009-2012, for a total increase of $70 million for these same services. It also approved a retroactive payment of $47 million for services already rendered. (11-0727-PR18)
Hidden among other records, the Board simultaneously directed that nearly all this money be diverted from teacher salaries and unemployment benefits for the 2011-12 school year. The CPS Transfer of Funds report (11-0727-EX1) explains the draining of teacher salary and unemployment benefits accounts “to pay for the Chicago Police Department.”
Meanwhile, CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley, tried to sell this public schools rip-off to the media. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that CPS “had no choice” but to make these retroactive payments (Chicago Sun-Times, July 4, 2011.) He told the Chicago Tribune that the money was “owed from previous years.” (Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2011.)
Despite numerous FOIA requests, both CPS and CPD refused to release the Intergovernmental Agreement formalizing this arrangement, executed on December 23, 2011, until the Union sued. In response to a CTU inquiry,
CPS admits that there had never been any formal intergovernmental agreements in place for this arrangement before.
“This new information will only infuriate our members who feel extremely disrespected by this current administration,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “This shows us the Board lied about not being able to afford our raises—they just put the money elsewhere. Instead of giving our hard working educators the money they deserve, they diverted it to the police department and then lied to the public about it.
“It appears this new Board and the new administration already had a plan in place to do this,” Lewis continued. “Every act they’ve done has been hostile toward our educators and our students. This city did not get into this financial mess by paying teachers and paraprofessionals.”
CPS has offered no explanation why it “must” pay the Police Department three times the agreed amount, including “for services already rendered.”
“The officers assigned to the high schools are processing arrests, just as they do at any other public facility. The officers do not report to CPS officials, and CPS provided them computers at no charge to process arrests,” said CTU Attorney Robert Bloch. “The Chicago Police Department accepted $8 million a year for over a decade for these services. There is no valid basis to now pay $25 million a year, most of it for services already performed, except when politics interferes with education.”
It should be noted, CPS recently admitted to having over $400 million in reserves. This money could have been used to extend additional payments to the police and pay teacher raises for 2011/12 school year. A hearing before a neutral arbitrator concerning CPS cancelling the 4 percent raises is scheduled for July 26.