Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave his chief of staff a new and much tougher assignment on Thursday, putting him in charge of Chicago's deeply-troubled public schools.
The new C.E.O. says schools will open on time Tuesday, September 2nd. But what's not clear is whether they'll have enough money to remain open for the rest of the school year.
FOX 32’s Political Editor Mike Flannery took a look at the challenges facing the new team that will run CPS.
New CEO Forrest Claypool faced big problems before at the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Transit Authority. But those were laughable compared to what awaits him at the public schools.
Shortly before Mayor Emanuel brought him to a West Side high school Thursday, the new schools’ boss spoke by telephone with the president of the teachers union.
Karen Lewis, a former standup comedian, said this is what she told Forrest Claypool:
“I said, ‘Run, Forrest, run!’ You know, away from this. This would be a mistake for you," Lewis said. “I think the job is probably undoable, to be perfectly honest, at this point.”
Governor Bruce Rauner has said repeatedly he wants the General Assembly to authorize the Chicago Board of Education to file for bankruptcy, as the best long-term solution to the system's crushing debt, including billions of dollars in unfunded teacher pensions.
In recent weeks, CPS has cut hundreds of jobs but is still about a half-billion dollars short of balancing its budget. Officials have placed a risky bet that most of that hole will eventually be filled by the State of Illinois, despite the current stalemate in the State Capitol.
“And to lay off teachers, to increase class sizes, to make the other types of cuts that would be necessary before Springfield's even finished its work would be terribly irresponsible,” Claypool said.
Claypool acknowledged criticism of his lack of experience in education. He said that's why former Westinghouse High School principal Janice Jackson will be his chief education officer.
“A lot of people were, I believe, waiting for Superman. And that's no longer necessary,” Jackson said.
Lewis did note, though, Claypool's reputation as a "Mr. Fixit" of local government. If he can oversee some sort of fix for the finances of CPS, he'll deserve a new nickname.
Perhaps, Mr. Miracle Worker.