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CPS wants $5 million for new furniture as part of move

1 North Dearborn st. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

1 North Dearborn st. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: April 27, 2014 6:23AM

In the wake of massive school closings and budget woes, Chicago Public Schools is seeking to double its furniture budget to $9.5 million, chalking up $5 million of that to an upcoming move of its central headquarters.

District officials want the Board of Education to approve the expense for the purchase and installation of new office furniture by Staples at Wednesday’s monthly meeting, a proposal the Chicago Teachers Union called “poor stewardship of money.”

CPS spokesman Joel Hood said the $5 million added to an existing $4.5 million contract with Staples was part of the moving plan. He said the money would cover costs for the new central headquarters at 1 N. Dearborn and eight satellite district offices. Hood said the district’s old furniture won’t fit in the new streamlined office space and called the cost of disassembling, moving and reassembling it “expensive.”

“This is part of CPS’ overall strategy to restructure and streamline its central office,” Hood said in an emailed statement. “By moving to a smaller, more efficient central office in the fall, the district projects to save an additional $60 million over the next 15 years.”

CPS also is seeking up to $400,000 for “logistics, planning and management services” for the move of more than 1,200 central office staffers by the relocation services firm 300 Decisions, according to the meeting’s agenda.

The country’s third-largest school district is moving its headquarters from 125 S. Clark to smaller offices on the first three floors of a Loop building that houses Sears’ flagship store, which is closing. District officials have said central office staff has decreased in recent years, requiring less space and projected the move should save some $60 million over 15 years in costs such as energy and upkeep.

The 19-story building CPS now owns and occupies is already on the market, Hood said. The move is scheduled to be completed by late November, he said.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis questioned the rationale of spending more money on the central office when so many schools were closed and remaining schools took big budget cuts.

“It’s about: Where are our priorities?” she said. “Again, these are moral decisions based on what’s important to some people and what’s important to other people.

I think it’s just poor stewardship of money.”

School leaders have bemoaned shrunken budgets this school year that have led principals to cut teachers and programs.

Kate Schott Bolduc, who sits on the Local School Council at Blaine Elementary School in Lake View, said her school lost about $700,000 in funding despite keeping enrollment steady and only managed to keep its art and music teachers by allowing 37 eighth graders in each classroom.

“Every penny counts,” Bolduc said. “For almost a year now, parents have been asking CPS to cut spending for central office and put the money in classrooms where it belongs — and to serve students. I think teachers and textbooks need to come before furniture.”


Twitter: @bylaurenfitz

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