CHICAGO (CBS) — Nearly a year after threatening to sue the state of Illinois over its system for funding public schools, the Chicago Board of Education has announced plans to file a civil rights lawsuit.
According to a news release from the Chicago Public Schools, the school board is filing a lawsuit seeking to declare the state’s funding systems illegal under the Illinois Civil Rights Act, accusing the state of discriminating against CPS students. Most students in CPS are black or Hispanic, and come from low-income families.
“In an effort to force the State of Illinois to equitably fund Chicago students, five families and the Board of Education sued today to declare the State’s separate and unequal education funding systems illegal,” CPS said in a statement.
CPS and school board officials were set to discuss the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon. Officials said it’s the first education funding lawsuit filed under the state’s civil rights statute.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool has hinted at a lawsuit for months. A year ago, he hired a law firm to prepare the lawsuit, but has held off on filing it in hopes the General Assembly and governor would approve additional funding for the district, along with changes to the state’s school funding formula.
Claypool has noted CPS is the only Illinois school district where local taxpayers, rather than the state, pay the employer’s share of teachers’ pensions. He also has noted CPS has 20 percent of the state’s public school students, but receives only 15 percent of state education funding.
CPS appeared to be on the verge of a legislative solution to its budget woes last summer, when lawmakers approved $215 million in pension aid for the district, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that legislation in December, and the Democratic-led House was unable to override the veto.
Rauner has criticized threats of a lawsuit, saying it “ignores reality” and would “set back funding formula reform for years to come.” The governor has said CPS is to blame for its own financial problems.
The governor’s office said it was reviewing the lawsuit.
“But it is important to remember that the bipartisan, bicameral school funding commission just issued its report, which recommends an equitable school funding formula that defines adequacy according to the needs of students within each school district,” Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis said in a statement. “The Governor remains focused on moving forward these recommendations and hopes that CPS will be a partner in that endeavor.”