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Chicago Schools Will Open on Time, District Chief Pledges

Despite having to borrow $389 million in part to get through the end of the school year, Chicago's schools will open on time in the fall, the district's schools chief said this week.

CEO Forrest Claypool's statement came more than a week after the city said that it would rely on short-term borrowing to get money to run the schools through the end of the year and make a massive payment to the teachers' pension fund, which is due at the end of June.

In a lawsuit challenging the state's school funding system as discriminatory, the district had argued that it would be forced to end the school year 20 days earlier than planned and cut some summer programs if the court did not intervene.

A Cook County judge dismissed the case in April, but gave the district the opportunity to refile.

Claypool has continued to denounce the way the Illinois funds schools, calling it discriminatory against the district's overwhelmingly African-American and Latino students. The district's argument has been that the city has 20 percent of the state's student enrollment but receives only 15 percent of the state's education funds. 

"This racially discriminatory state funding is a cancer upon CPS," Claypool said, according to prepared remarks. "In the past two years, our cuts, management reforms, and enhanced revenues have been mere radiation treatments, slowing down and postponing the cancer's advance. But no homegrown remedies will ultimately stop its deadly reach. Only the removal of the cancer—by either Springfield or by the courts—will cure the patient."

In addition to the short-term borrowing, the district also plans long-term borrowing for the next fiscal year, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The district has said that its financial problems were exacerbated by Gov. Bruce Rauner's December veto of $215 million that it expected to receive in pension funding. But the governor's office has said that the funds were expected to be tied to larger pension reform.

The Chicago Tribune quoted Eleni Demertzis, a spokeswoman for the governor, as saying that Rauner's team was working on finding solutions for the state budget issues.

"More tired finger-pointing without concrete solutions does nothing to help CPS' students and teachers," she said. 

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