(Adds details from judge's ruling, comments from Chicago mayor
and state official)
By Karen Pierog
CHICAGO, April 28 An Illinois judge dealt a blow
to Chicago's cash-strapped school system on Friday by
dismissing its lawsuit that argued the state's school-funding
formula discriminates against minority students.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Franklin Valderrama gave the
nation's third-largest public school system until May 26 to
amend the lawsuit after determining it failed to identify
alleged discriminatory practices under Illinois' Civil Rights
"To say that the state's current scheme of funding public
education is broken is to state the obvious," the judge said in
his ruling, adding however that the current lawsuit "is not the
vehicle to redress this inequity."
The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) sued Illinois officials in
February, claiming the state's method of education funding
discriminates against its largely black and Hispanic student
body in violation of the Civil Rights Act.
Unlike all other Illinois school districts, which
participate in a teachers' retirement system heavily subsidized
by the state, CPS maintains its own pension fund for educators.
Escalating pension payments have led to drained reserves,
debt dependency, and junk bond ratings for CPS.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who controls the district, said
students will have a full school year despite the ruling.
The district had raised the possibility of saving $96
million by ending the school year on June 1 instead of June 20
and cancelling some summer school programs as it deals with a
lingering $129 million deficit in its $5.41 billion budget and a
looming $721 million pension payment.
Emanuel offered no clue as to where the money would come from
to fill the budget gap, telling reporters "we're going to look
at all options." Some Chicago aldermen are pushing a plan to
raid the city's surplus tax increment funding cash.
Governor Bruce Rauner punched a hole in the CPS budget with
his veto of a bill allowing a one-time $215 million state cash
infusion for the district's pensions.
His administration's top education official Beth Purvis said
that CPS should be urging state lawmakers to craft an equitable
school funding system.
"With this distraction behind us, we can move forward on
working with the General Assembly to fix our state's school
funding formula," Purvis said in a statement.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said lawyers needed time to review
the ruling before determining the next legal move.
The state sought to dismiss the lawsuit, while CPS asked for
a temporary halt to the state-wide distribution of school-aid
dollars, which the judge denied.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Writing by Dave McKinney; Editing
by Matthew Lewis and Diane Craft)