Yard signs have been posted on just about every residential block throughout the city as a reminder to more than 400,000 Chicago Public Schools students that summer is coming to a close - "School Starts September 4th."
As CPS and local elected officials prepare for the upcoming school year by stressing the importance of attending school on the first day, a West Side community organization is stressing the opposite.
The North Lawndale Accountability Commission said CPS is all about the business of education and not the mission. The organization said their true mission is to reap the financial rewards of children being in the classroom on the first day.
Last school year, first-day attendance was at an all-time high of 93 percent, up one percentage point from the previous school year. Each percentage point gain in first-day attendance provides CPS with an extra $18 million in funds from the state for the next school year.
Instead of going to school on the first day, the organization aims to make the second day the start of the school year.
"They are telling the kids to come to school on the first day. There is no emphasis on telling the kids to go to school beyond that," Derrick Harris, the NLAC's education commissioner, told the Defender.
The money that has been given to CPS each year based on first-day attendance, Harris said, is not going toward funding the city's schools or parks. He said the money is tied up in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts because there aren't additional funds available from property taxes.
"They rely on it to drive their budget. Our areas have been TIF'd and the money from the property taxes is frozen for the next 23 years. There's just no money in property taxes for education anymore," Harris said.
CPS refutes the allegations is continuing with its "back to school" campaign.
"Our resources have been severely limited by Springfield, and the problem is that the taxpayers are bearing the burden way too much to fund our schools," Michael Vaughn, spokesman for CPS, told the Defender.
Vaughn said funds from TIF districts help, not hurt, the school system because it affords every neighborhood the chance to get state-of-the-art schools.
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