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Report: TIF Funds Aren’t Helping Schools

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Are Tax Increment Financing District funds fairly distributed when it comes to Chicago schools? A sociology professor who has looked at the books thinks not.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, the report was released Tuesday by Roosevelt University assistant sociology professor Stephanie Farmer, and was discussed in Crain’s Chicago Business.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports

The report examines how the city has spent some $858 million in building and repairing public schools since 1983.

It claims selective enrollment schools such as charters and magnets which make up just 1 percent of the total student population, received 24 percent of the money.

In contrast, Farmer says open-enrollment neighborhood schools have been given 48 percent of the TIF funds, even though they comprise 69 percent of all schools.

As a consequence, schools with a Latino population at or greater than the citywide average got 27 percent of the money even though they enroll 44 percent of all CPS students, Crain’s reported. Meanwhile, heavily white schools received 23 percent of available funds, even though only about 9 percent of CPS students are white.

In a TIF district, property tax dollars for schools, parks, and other taxing districts are frozen for at least 23 years, so that all property tax increases afterward to go into a fund to improve struggling neighborhoods.

The TIF program has been under heavy criticism for several years.

Notably, critics such as Chicago Reader columnist Ben Joravsky say TIFs amount to a slush fund for the mayor. Joravsky has been writing articles criticizing the TIF program for several years.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken some steps to reform the city’s TIF program.