The Chicago Public Schools system has seen significant improvements in freshmen on track and high school graduation rates. CPS has also closed dozens of schools, used fiscal 2016 revenue to balance its 2015 budget and faces a roughly $700 million pension payment in 2016. Please give us your assessment of the academic and financial performance of the city's public schools. What is the key to improving public education in the city? Should members of the Board of Education be elected by the public or continue to be appointed by the mayor? Do you support the longer school day and year? Should CPS expand or reduce the number of charter schools? How should CPS close its significant budget gap?


While the Chicago Public Schools have never been stronger, there remains much work to do. Graduation rates, attendance and test scores are all at record highs, but we should not feel satisfied until every student from every neighborhood is guaranteed the same high-quality education. There is a lot to be proud of: after four years of investments and reform, every student has a full school day that will provide a student entering kindergarten nearly 2.5 additional years of instructional time by the time they graduate high school. For the first time, all 30,000 CPS kindergarten students receive a full day of kindergarten and 75% of 3 and 4-year olds below the poverty line have access to quality pre-school options. Investing in our children's future is a top priority and despite budget constraints CPS continues to make significant investments in schools, programs, and facilities that will benefit students in all Chicago neighborhoods across the city. Through $750 million in central office, administrative and operational cuts, we will ensure the funding stays where it belongs – with the students in classrooms. But moving forward we must address the looming budget crisis with a far broader strategy. To start, I continue to work in Springfield to reform the pension system and give Chicago its fair share of education funding. Last year, Springfield passed pension reform for all school districts in Illinois except Chicago. Equally problematic, the state of Illinois budget pays the full pension cost for all school districts other than Chicago. Between these two disparities, Chicago is losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in financial relief that can directly impact our classrooms. I will continue to work in Springfield to correct these disparities and fight to make sure that Chicago gets its fair share. Charter schools play an important role in providing quality school options to Chicago families. It is important, though, to ensure that charters are held accountable. More than 30 charter school campuses have been approved in the last four years, empowering families with the promise of better school options. At the same time, poor-performing charters have been held accountable for the first time, with two being closed and another 11 placed on a warning list for failing to meet academic standards. One in four top-tier Level 1 high schools are CPS charter high schools. Not including selective enrollment high schools, the top 11 high schools in the city are charter high schools. At 75% of CPS elementary charter schools, students outperform non-charter district schools on the proportion of students meeting or exceeding state standards. I will continue to expand those successful models while holding underperforming charters accountable. I am comfortable with the current responsibilities given to the mayor and the school board. At a time when we're seeing gains across the board, the last thing we need is more politics in our schools. There continues to be significant elected representation at the local level through Local School Councils that approve budgets and principal hiring.

I believe it is necessary to change course dramatically from the so-called "reforms" offered by Mayor Emanuel and instead take a new, holistic approach to our city's schools. A sound public education system should the right of everyone one in our society, as it is the very foundation of a functioning democracy and a healthy economy. My program involves giving the school system back to the people through an elected school board; reducing to the barest legal minimum the plethora of high-stakes, standardized tests by which we falsely judge schools, students, and teachers; placing a moratorium on further charter schools; expanding public education to include pre-kindergarten and even earlier; and reducing class size, which is one of the largest in the state. We need to stop pretending that standardized tests measure intelligence, learning or real world capabilities. They measure little more than the ability to take standardized tests, a skill that is rarely needed in the workplace. We must further provide a multitude of proper books, libraries, and recreational facilities and course offerings in languages, literature and the arts. As Mayor, I will make sure critical bilingual and dual-language programs will be available to all students that need and desire them. We need a serious expansion of dual language programs into all communities in Chicago. There is solid evidence that fluency in a second or even third language, starting at an early age, helps students academically across the board, putting them in position to be truly college and career ready. These programs are also essential in our increasingly global economy, as recognized by the recently established Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy. I do not support a further expansion of charter schools, and I think any discussion on savings within the public school system must recognize charters have become the new coin of political patronage. A glaring example is the UNO group, until recently led by Juan Rangel, who was forced out after reports of cronyism and corruption in its charter network, which has received more than $100 million in state money. Rangel, who earned $260,00 a year, was a co-chair of Emanuel's mayoral campaign while UNO personnel worked in local campaigns against Emanuel's critics. This is classic pinstripe patronage, typically funneled through contracts with lawyers and bond issuers. Now it's an unconscionable mix of money and politics, short-changing the debt-plagued public school system, punishing children and taxpayers alike.

The Chicago Public School System is in bad shape and should have and elected school board that can make decisions. unfortunately I have not been involved in the school system and this is a situation that I would have to access once I am in office. No I do not support longer school days nor longer school year and this again access. All schools should be equal and every child should be offered the same education as private, charter etc....,

Under the direction of the current mayor, Chicago Public Schools have engaged in the cleansing of Socially and Attitudinally challenged at risk students. School closings, expulsions and other measures have resulted in the elimination of underperforming students. Thus, upon closer examination, the perceived improvements in graduation rates is a fiction without merit. As mayor, consistent with my commitment to decentralize city government, I will reopen the 50 schools Rahm recklessly closed. Those buildings will be "education first facilities" with a "mixed use" component. Those sound structures will be refurbished and restored to their primary use as neighborhood schools. However, to make this economically feasible, and reduce the burden on taxpayers, we will modify each building to also accommodate, a Police Sub Station; A Regional or Local CPS office; A WIC office; A Neighborhood DHS office, and a student therapy facility. Given the proper design, these several essential community service providers can safely and efficiently co-exist in the same structure. Members of the Board of Education should be elected by the public. We should establish eight single member districts with a president to be elected at large. The legislation must include safeguards to avoid the hijacking of the election by powerful, well funded organizations, PACS, unions and other special interest groups. The enabling legislation must be carefully drafted to include strict campaign financing and spending limits, and thereby ensure that ordinary and average individuals have an equal opportunity to win election. I would not support a measure that would make a longer school day mandatory. Instead, I would support an initiative which would provide the option for students to benefit from a longer school day based upon their individual desire, capacity and family circumstances. The number of Charter schools should be frozen at the current level. To close the CPS budget gap, we will decrease the operational costs through the installation of devices which efficiently regulate and control building temperature and lighting; through better effectuation of contract awards; and by significantly increasing the number of CPS contractors bidding to provide goods, services and materials.

CPS faces multiple crises, from a ballooning budget to a lack of resources for our teachers and students to its willingness to sacrifice public schools for the sake of charters. The key to improving public education in Chicago is making certain our public school teachers, parents and students have the resources they need and are fully empowered to give our children a world class education. Strong neighborhood schools are the backbone of strong communities. Our current model of a Mayoral-appointed board is not responsive to the needs of the majority of public school parents. It favors those with clout or financial interest and gives them undue influence. I will work to create an elected school board as soon as I take office. Well-resourced public schools have to be accessible to all of Chicago's children and must be a way to give opportunity to all. I am in favor of a moratorium on further charter school expansion until a long term facilities plan is enacted. No other district in the country has relied so heavily on auction rate securities paired with interest rate swaps. These toxic swaps could cost our schools up to $100 million. To close the budget gap, I will demand the banks renegotiate these deals and put an end to this practice. Additionally, TIFs have stripped much needed revenue from CPS. The amount that's being taken away from what would be the CPS levy does not add up to the amount they could be putting in schools. We're sitting on $1.7 billion in TIF revenue right now, and I will declare a TIF surplus to put this money back into our schools where it belongs.