School system headed for shutdown



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—The Chicago school system is headed for another shutdown because lawmakers don’t have the votes to keep Illinois’ largest school system open, leaders in both parties said Wednesday.

After a two-hour meeting among leaders, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Jim Edgar said there was little movement to resolve the crisis by the Legislature.

‘‘The conversation was rather pessimistic … pessimistic that there may not be sufficient votes to pass the bill to keep Chicago schools open,’‘ said Madigan, a Chicago Democrat.

‘‘If the votes aren’t there, eventually there will be a shutdown of the system; that should be the precise reason why the votes should be there,’‘ Madigan said.

Edgar agreed that talks have moved very little since last month when the Legislature last tried to resolve the school crisis and help close the Chicago school system’s $298 million budget deficit.

The Republican governor said he was ‘‘shocked’‘ and ‘‘stunned’‘ that the Legislature adjourned Wednesday without resolving the school situation.

‘‘I was just stunned the speaker didn’t want to stay down here and work on that,’‘ he said.

‘‘I think the problem is in both houses and in both parties,’‘ Edgar said.

Madigan said he adjourned the lower chamber because it would have been fruitless to try to adopt legislation before the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education concluded their work.

He said the union told him teachers would reject a school-rescue plan if lawmakers approve it before union members can consider it.

Major elements—borrowing $110 million from teacher pension funds and issuing $276 million in bonds backed by local taxes—would require three-fifths’ approval of the Legislature to take effect immediately.

The union plans a contract vote next Wednesday or Thursday. U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras said he will allow the schools to operate without a balanced budget until the Legislature acts.

Edgar said he thinks the union and the school board ‘‘did a pretty good job up there,’‘ but he said the Legislature won’t just rubber stamp an agreement between the two factions.

‘‘I think there’s going to have be some things added,’‘ he said. He declined to give specifics.

Madigan said if anyone is unsatisfied with the Chicago agreement, then they should reconvene negotiations and start anew.

‘‘My experience with negotiations is everyone of those items negotiated was critical to somebody,’‘ he said.