The Chicago school system has sued Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the State Board of Education, contending that the way the state allocates funds for schools violates the civil rights of minority children, who make up nine out of 10 city students.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the district asserts that the state has “two separate and demonstrably unequal systems for funding public education in the state: one for the City of Chicago, whose public school children are 90 percent children of color, and the other for the rest of the state, whose public school children are predominantly white.”
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, asks a judge to declare the state’s funding formula and teacher pension disparities unlawful, and to prevent state officials from doling out money in a discriminatory fashion.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool says in a news release that “Chicago students, who are overwhelmingly students of color, are learning in a separate but unequal system. The message from the state is that their educations matter less than children in the rest of Illinois, and that is both morally and legally indefensible.”
State leaders have been working on a “grand bargain” solution for the state’s budget, and the plan that the Senate continues to discuss contains the $215 million for Chicago Public Schools pensions. A separate bill to allocate any new money for school districts first to those that serve mostly poor children has been introduced in the house.
Rauner is scheduled to deliver his annual state budget address on Wednesday.
Chicago’s schools system has slashed about $104 million from its budget with furlough days, spending freezes and other cuts, and expects to pass another version of its $5.4 billion operating budget later this month that likely still will be short $111 million.
“The situation is dire,” the lawsuit says. “If the state simply provided [the district] with the same level of funding per student that the state provides to the rest of Illinois, [Chicago] would receive nearly $500 million in additional state funding for Fiscal Year 2017."
A similar civil rights lawsuit, filed by the Chicago Urban League in 2008 against the state board of education, still is pending in Cook County Court.