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Where Is All This Chicago School Money Coming From?

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A Chicago Public School classroom. (CBS)

A Chicago Public School classroom. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Just a few months after the Chicago Public School system closed 49 schools and laid off about 2,000 workers, some watchdogs are wondering just how Mayor Rahm Emanuel is able to spend millions of dollars on some select schools.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, Emanuel has made three public school enhancement announcements in as many days.

The mayor is pledging tens of millions of dollars to build, improve or create science, technology and math (STEM) programs at five city schools.

Tilton, Spencer, Jensen and Erickson elementary schools will also get new playgrounds.

This is good news, of course, for schools on the receiving end of that money.

However, after the massive school closures and layoffs, is it the appropriate use of funds?

“We are going to continue to make the tough choices even though there are more needs than we can meet,” the mayor said.

Wendy Katten, the executive director of the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand, says: “We see these victories on TV, but schools are suffering because they have lost positions across the board.”

Katten points out with some irony that future STEM schools will focus on science, technology and math, but regular CPS schools are now struggling with the loss of dozens of high school science and math teachers because of recent cuts.

“We’re not at all criticizing a particular school,” Katten said. “It’s more the policy of how do you justify these decisions?”

School projects have different funding sources, and the mayor points out there’s a difference between the operating budget (the one that pays salaries, for example) and the capital budget (the one that pays for physical school improvements).

A CPS spokesperson says an unexpected $89 million state windfall with pay for most of this week’s projects.

However, some education watchdogs still question the priorities.

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