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CPS to get $89 million from state for capital improvements

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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Updated: September 24, 2013 6:28AM



Gov. Pat Quinn announced on Thursday $89 million in capital improvements for Chicago Public Schools, about $16 million of which may be used to alleviate overcrowding in some CPS schools.

The money is part of a $400 million Illinois Jobs Now! capital program to build new school buildings, expand existing schools and renovate energy systems, according to the governor’s office, and ought to help the cash-strapped district make important schools repairs.

In some cases, the schools had been on a waiting list for committed state funds since 2003, according to the governor’s office, but now will get the money because the state sold some $1.3 billion in general obligation bonds in June to fund this and other capital projects, such as the CTA Red Line expansion.

CPS’ share includes $59 million in capital construction grants, $10 million for maintenance, $4 million for energy efficiency and $16 million to help ease overcrowding. The money is intended to renovate classrooms, make schools accessible for students with disabilities, repair roofs and other older structures, and upgrade inefficient heating and cooling systems.

“Our children cannot concentrate on learning if they’re sitting in a school that’s crumbling,” Quinn said in a statement. “The quality of learning that goes on in our classrooms will drive tomorrow’s economy. These school construction projects will raise the standard of learning in Chicago’s classrooms.”

CPS will need approval from the state’s Capital Development Board for the projects it intends to spend the money on, said Assistant State Budget Director Abdon Pallasch. However, CPS had not submitted the list as of Thursday.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll declined to answer specific questions about where and how the money might be spent, which overcrowded schools might benefit, whether it could be used to fix CPS-owned buildings occupied by charter schools and what dent, if any, it might make in the district’s giant budget gap that has resulted in classroom cuts and teacher layoffs.

Instead she provided a written statement thanking the state, and pointing to the district’s separate pension problems.

“The funds announced today play an important role in helping CPS pay down costs for capital investments that have been made for students in every corner of the city,” she wrote. “We look forward to working with all stakeholders as we continue to support Chicago students.”

Twenty-four school districts statewide, whose projects were certified by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Capital Development Board, will receive the funding this year.

That includes some $23.3 million in capital spending for districts in suburban Cook County, too. Calumet City School District 155 is getting $3.5 million for the construction of a nine-classroom addition to Wentworth Junior High School.

Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 will receive $8.9 million for completed renovations and additions to its high school. Maine Township High School District 207 is getting nearly $2.2 million for four new classrooms at Maine South High school and a nine-classroom addition at Maine West High School it already built.

Thornton School District 154 will receive $445,000 for a four-classroom addition it built at Wolcott Elementary School, and School District 159 in Matteson gets $8.3 million for the Colin Powell Middle School it built.

Email: lfitzpatrick@suntimes.com

Twitter: @bylaurenfitz



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