By John Ruberry
On Friday a friend of this very blogger forwarded a Chicago Tribune Breaking News Alert to me: Chicago Public Schools enrollment drops by nearly 10,000 students. And the year before CPS enrollment slid by 11,000.
There are 371,382 students taking classes in CPS schools In 2002 there 438,589 kids running the halls, with some of them learning something.
So, taxes for schools will go down, right?
Not in the Prairie State, the home of “Illinois Math,” where two plus two equals five.
For a while, that is.
CPS is expected to raise property taxes soon–a state bill that will likely pass to pass gives them that power–by $120 million to pay for, wait for it, teacher pensions. That’s on top of $100 million in a tax jump already sanctioned
The sad tale of the Chicago Teachers Pensions Fund [CTPF] goes back to 1981 when the Chicago Board of Education agreed to pick up most of the teachers’ obligation to pay into their pension plans. Out of sight–out of mind. Yes, Chicago Teachers Union, I’m looking at you! In 1995 a lost weekend of retirement funding began–it lasted ten years–and all of that money that was supposed to go to pensions instead went towards teacher salaries and nuts-and-bolts school expenses. Oh, don’t forget to throw in a calorie-loaded Chicago-style pizza buffet line of cronyism, giveaways, and malfeasance into this toxic dish.
Illinois still hasn’t completely recovered from the Great Recession–government corruption and incompetence, in my opinion, are the sole reasons for that–so naturally a partial CTPF “pension holiday” was declared from 2011-13 and the can was kicked down the potholed road again.
Chicago Public Schools bonds are rated as junk.
Two years ago Chicago property owners had to swallow the largest property tax hike in the city’s history to help shore up police and firefighter pension funds, which are even more underfunded than the teachers’ pensions. And last week Chicago’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel, released his 2018 budget proposal, which of course includes tax increases. When asked if more tax hikes were coming, Emanuel dodged the question.
Chicago is the only large American city with a shrinking population.
As bad as Chicago’s financial situation is, the reality is probably far worse because Illinois Math is very likely disguising the wretched truth.
Decline and fall.
Here is some more Illinois Math for you: The free-market Illinois Policy Institute says, “There are now more inactive employees and beneficiaries in CTPF than there are active workers paying into the pension fund.”
Someday there will be a new Illinois Math equation. Two plus two won’t equal five–it will equal just one.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.