CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to open an elite high school that once was to be named after President Barack Obama has been put on the back burner, as part of the financial package that averted a teachers’ strike at the Chicago Public Schools.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said he agreed to forego tax increment financing money that would have been used to build a new $60 million selective enrollment high school on the Near North Side, so surplus TIF dollars could be used to help pay for the tentative four-year contract agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union.
The mayor has declared a $175 million surplus TIF funds, and pledged $88 million of that total to CPS as part of the agreement with CTU.
Burnett said the mayor asked him to indefinitely postpone the project to create the new selective enrollment high school originally planned for his ward, and he agreed.
“Aldermen have given up some stuff in their TIFs. This is one of the least common denominators for me. I have some other things that’s more imperative that’s in place, and all of those are set,” he said.
Burnett said aldermen with unallocated TIF money in their wards have been asked to give up more to help fund CPS, and they are.
The mayor announced plans for the Barack Obama College Preparatory High School in 2014, but later dropped plans to name the school after the president, amid complaints about building the facility on the North Side, when Obama started his political career on the South Side. At the time, the mayor admitted he erred in his rush to have Chicago with the first school named after Obama.
“In my rush to honor our favorite son, I made a mistake,” Emanuel said.
The 1,200-students school was to be built in time for the 2017-18 school year, but plans for the school itself later stalled amid disputes over exactly where it would be built.
Now that Burnett has given up the roughly $60 million that was supposed to go to the school, it’s unclear when and where it might get built.