[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ld. John Arena appeared on CAN TV’S “Political Forum,” where he spoke about budget issues, stressed the need for open elections among CPS board members and recent victories for workers’ rights in Chicago.
“The challenges that we have in the city budget are massive and we have an equally big problem on the CPS side. So, leadership is a big problem,” stated the 45th Ward alderman.
Arena previously introduced a bill in 2013 aimed at creating open elections for CPS board members, and has supported numerous education reform efforts in the past, including opposition to charter schools and calls for full-time nurses in Chicago schools.
The resignation of CPS Chief Executive Barbara Byrd-Bennet earlier this month, amidst a federal investigation into her involvement in a $20.5-million no-bid contract, came at a time when CPS had a revolving door of top officials over the past four years, seeing the appointment of three chief executives since Mayor Emmanuel’s first term in office.
“We need good oversight, and we need accountability from the school board, or we’re going to continue to see these kinds of poor decisions [being] made,” said Arena. “This is money, taxpayer money. Fifty percent of your property tax bill goes to schools in Chicago, and that money needs to be spent well, and there needs to be accountability if the money is spent poorly.”
Arena’s comments came just weeks before scheduled contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and city officials. With the previous negotiations between CTU and city officials resulting in a nine-day strike, the city’s already massive budget shortfalls can only mean another contentious discussion.
“Decisions that have been made in the past have led us to this place,” continued Arena. “Doing the same thing, continuing the same process and the same procedures with a bunch of folks that just say ’yes’ to what’s put in front of them isn’t going to get us a better resolution. So, I’m going to continue to fight for this. I truly believe in it. We have to work at the state level to make it happen, but we’re the only school district in Illinois that has a non-elected school board.”