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CPS pension crisis leads to controversial tax hike

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Lincoln+Park+High+School%2C+located+just+blocks+away+from+DePaul%E2%80%99s+campus%2C+is+one+of+the+better+performing+schools+in+CPS.++%28Photo+courtesy+of+Kseferovic+%7C+Wikimedia+Commons%29
Lincoln Park High School, located just blocks away from DePaul’s campus, is one of the better performing schools in CPS.  (Photo courtesy of Kseferovic | Wikimedia Commons)

Lincoln Park High School, located just blocks away from DePaul’s campus, is one of the better performing schools in CPS. (Photo courtesy of Kseferovic | Wikimedia Commons)

Lincoln Park High School, located just blocks away from DePaul’s campus, is one of the better performing schools in CPS. (Photo courtesy of Kseferovic | Wikimedia Commons)

Taxes will be on the rise for Chicago residents in 2018 since the Chicago Public School (CPS) system will hike up taxes to $225 million to help teachers with their pensions. 

In a press release, former-CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, who resigned from his position in December, lauded the legislators who “courageously fought for and won a historic victory for education funding reform that creates more stability in schools and will continue the trailblazing academic growth that has attracted the attention of top academic researchers and experts throughout the 

Claypool credits the efforts to lawmakers and significant management reforms.

“CPS is putting the cloud of uncertainty behind us,” Claypool said. “Chicago students will directly and immediately benefit from legislators’ victory in the form of lower interest rates and the ability to refinance high cost debt.”

CPS has a budget of $450 million for 2018. Of this, $130 million will go towards teacher pensions while $80 million will be used for school security and student safety costs.

Since 2011, according to the Chicago Sun-Times,  the school board has received more money by raising property taxes to the cap allowed under state law, and through a capital improvement tax.

Assistant principal Minh Nguyen of Roald Amundsen High School, a public school on the North Side, says the pension crisis has to be solved for CPS to continue operating.

“Teacher pensions should be paid,” Nguyen said. “I’m looking at the bigger picture, and one of the primary constraints of the CPS budget is teacher pensions. In the long term, in order for the system to be solved, they need to address it in some way.”

The city has been dropped the ball time and time again on pension reform, and Nguyen has had enough.

“(CPS) has been doing a lousy job because we would not be in this position if they had been paying all along instead of pushing it down the road,” Nguyen said. “And now they are just trying to scramble and pay off these pensions the very last minute.”

DePaul University business manager Joe Bertolli has been a Chicago resident his whole life but does not support raising taxes to help pay off teacher pensions.

“Anyone older than 40, if you ask them if you agree or disagree with the hike in taxes they are going to tell you, ‘No you should not going to raise the taxes,’’’ Bertolli said. “But anyone under 40 they are going to say, ‘Oh yeah, go ahead because they are going to get a better education.’”

Neither Bertolli nor his children attended public schools. He finds it unfair how Chicago residents are taxed more for teacher pensions regardless if they attend public schools in Chicago.

“They are already taking enough money out of those peoples’ taxes and payingfor  something else with it,” Bertolli said. “What they need to do is learn how to cut a corner somewhere else instead of charging the people of Chicago. I think it is really wrong.”

The Board of Education voted on the amended budget proposal at its Oct. 25 meeting.

According to the CPS 2016 budget, funding has decreased tremendously to just 52 percent of its 2001 budget, which represents a decrease of almost $9.4 billion.

Freshman Ashley Garbarek wants to become a kindergarten teacher and teach in Chicago. She feels that it should be Chicagoans collective responsibility to make sure these pensions are funded.

“I feel like paying for their pensions is a job that all Chicago residents should do,” Garbarek said.

After Garbarek saw the monumental cuts in the CPS budget, she said the budget should be resorted to its orginal 2001 funding.

“I know a lot of teachers put in a lot of work outside of the classrooms and they are not getting paid much,” Garbarek said. “Teachers spend money out of their own pocket to pay for supplies and they spend a lot of time arranging classrooms to fit the need for other students to make sure each student is catered to specifically.”

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CPS pension crisis leads to controversial tax hike