Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, is in such poor shape because tax dollars meant for the classroom are going to pay retired teachers, according to one economist.

Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Josh McGee said Chicago parents should be upset that their kids’ schools are in such poor condition. But McGee said the reason isn’t a lack of funding. CPS spends more than $15,000 per student. McGee said the pension costs are forcing the district to make drastic cuts in personnel and equipment.

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McGee said the Illinois Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution’s protection of existing pension benefits means classrooms will continue to lose out. “The only way to solve this is through shared sacrifice, but one big element of that shared sacrifice is off the table, so it’s going to be future workers, taxpayers and students who lose out.”

The teachers union should be prepared to make concessions on pensions, or the cuts will continue, McGee said. “This is not completely a management versus labor issue. It’s also an issue where labor is taking a significant share of the hit unless they come to the table to come to a shared sacrifice solution.”

McGee said any new money from the taxpayers of Illinois should come with strings attached. “The state of Illinois should not just bail out CPS or the city of Chicago without significant reforms to the way business is being done.”

McGee said CPS pays 25 percent over and above its payroll costs to teachers who are already retired. Retired teachers have outnumbered current teachers since 2013.


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