Political revolt called only way out of CPS financial crisis
It will take a village of angry townsfolk to bring down the three-headed monster that is trying to kill Chicago Public Schools (CPS), a conservative radio talk show host argued recently.
"The people in charge have been responsible for the decline of Chicago Public Schools," Pat Hughes, co-host of "Illinois Rising," said. "Who has local control: Rahm Emanuel, Karen Lewis, Mike Madigan."
While CPS officials have said they plan to borrow approximately $900 million to add to the school district's $9 billion debt, it's not at all clear whether anyone will loan the school district any more money given its poor credit rating. Hughes said the district might attract some investors because interest rates are at an all-time low, which makes high-risk lending attractive to some.
"But that gravy train isn't going to last forever," he said. "What we're looking at, absent major structural reform – and I think we might already be over the cliff for that as regards to city pensions and teacher pensions – is, at some point, bankruptcy."
Hughes is a Hinsdale attorney, real estate developer and president of the Liberty Justice Center. His co-host, Dan Proft, is a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
A Chicago City Wire analysis on the Chicago Teachers Pension fund found it paid out $1.5 billion in 2016 but took in only approximately $7.8 million from its investments. It spent $35.8 million on investments to earn that $7.8 million.
On May 24, the Chicago Teachers Union voted overwhelmingly that it has no confidence in Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool. While the vote was symbolic, it stung enough for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to provide Claypool, his longtime political associate, with a public show of support during a City Club of Chicago gathering.
However, it's those city and school officials who've caused CPS' problems, Hughes said, and turning things around will require a response by pensioners and those who expect to be pensioners, Hughes said.
"The revolt needs to be stoked by those people," he said.
Hughes reiterated that those he believes must go include lllinois' powerful House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.
"She (Lewis) has led all those people down the primrose path, as has the mayor and Mike Madigan," Hughes said. "It's getting to the bubbling point time where folks have got to be saying, 'I've been sold a bill of goods, and we need to do something to change it.' Because if they don't restructure their pensions, there isn’t going to be anything for anyone down the road."