WebExtra: Governor’s budget cuts hit CPS

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Dozens of grants that lawmakers earmarked for building repairs and after-school programs at individual Chicago schools are among the $463 million in spending cuts Gov. Rod Blagojevich made Thursday, a Catalyst budget analysis shows.

He also cut $5 million statewide for severely overcrowded schools, and $3.5 million in charter school startup grants. For Chicago, that means a loss of $3 million for overcrowding relief and $3 million for charter school startups, according to CPS’ Chief Financial Officer Pedro Martinez.

CPS is also losing $3 million that was targeted for eyeglasses for students through the Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds campaign, and $500,000 for arts programs, Martinez says.

“Frankly, those are things that we wish we still had, but at this point we were concerned about losing increases to categorical grants and the [general state aid] foundation level,” he says. “Not that we’re happy, but it could have been worse.”

The governor, who disparaged the $463 million in spending as “pork and non-essential,” intends to target the dollars toward expanded health care, though it’s not clear how he might accomplish that without the General Assembly’s approval.

The governor cut grants for building repairs, operations and after-school programs at three dozen schools but spared grants at another two dozen.

Blagojevich’s line-item vetos came 10 days after lawmakers sent him a budget, ending a 10-week standoff. Lawmakers will now consider whether to override the governor.

House Speaker Michael Madigan has indicated he will push the House to override the cuts. But Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a Chicago Democrat who is the governor’s staunchest ally in the Legislature, has said the Senate will not override the governor. (Since Jones controls the Senate’s agenda, he can prevent senators from voting on a motion to overrule the governor.) If Jones stands by his word, then the governor’s cuts appear to be final.

CPS will receive an additional $128 million in categorical and general state aid this year, according to Martinez.

“All the districts were hoping for funding reform, and it didn’t happen,” Martinez says. The biggest disappointment for all of us is that we’re still going [to be budgeting] year to year.”

Contributing: Data and Research Editor John Myers