Edgar, leaders try again on schools



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—Gov. Jim Edgar and legislative leaders reported no progress from a Sunday negotiating session that searched for an answer to the Chicago public school crisis.

Earlier Sunday, the Chicago Board of Education rejected the idea of opening schools this week despite a state law prohibiting them from operating with a deficit.

The board voted to shut down the school system at 12:01 a.m. Monday, when the Illinois General Assembly’s week-long waiver of the ban expires.

‘‘I believe adults should be role models for children. We must work within the law and work hard to change it if it is something we do not agree with,’‘ said Schools Superintendent Argie Johnson.

Union officials presented a proposal to the board Sunday, but no agreement was reached after more than three hours of negotiations.

‘‘The union made us a proposal tonight, which is really a step in the right direction—a very, very small step,’‘ said board negotiator Howard Bernstein. ‘‘The gap between us is still huge.’‘

Details of the agreement were not revealed, but board and union negotiators were scheduled to meet again Monday afternoon.

School board President D. Sharon Grant said Sunday she hopes to go to federal court Monday in an attempt to get the school system’s 411,000 pupils back in classes. She would not give details of her plans. And no one answered the school board’s office telephone Sunday afternoon.

Grant and Johnson also traveled to Springfield for Sunday night’s meeting of legislative leaders and Edgar.

But House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said they should go back to Chicago.

‘‘I think the superintendent and all the board members should be up in Chicago negotiating with the union on the question of using pension fund money for operations,’‘ Madigan said.

Edgar and legislative leaders said no progress was reached during Sunday’s meeting. Legislators planned to meet again Monday with negotiations focused on work rule changes, voucher program proposals and what they described as ‘‘non-monetary’‘ issues.

Teachers and the school board must come to their own agreement on whether the teachers’ pension funds will be used to reduce the district’s deficit, Edgar, Madigan and other legislative leaders said.

Both chambers adjourned Friday and will not return to the Capitol until negotiators have galvanized an agreement.

Leaders decided not to grant a second waiver Friday.

‘‘The feeling was that we did that before, and it didn’t have any impact,’‘ Edgar said. ‘‘So there didn’t seem that strong a feeling to move ahead.’‘

Edgar said lawmakers were getting frustrated, particularly because the school board and the Chicago Teachers Union aren’t even talking.

‘‘So even if we had reached agreement, they are not willing to talk; there’s not going to be school,’‘ Edgar said.

The logjams center around several issues.

Leaders cannot agree on how much money the Chicago schools should be allowed to borrow, but amounts have ranged from $275 million to $330 million.

School vouchers were another sticking point, with Republicans saying the certificates of up to $2,500 for use at private schools would force the public schools to improve. Democrats say it would just chip away at public education.

They also deadlocked on how to deal with the school districts’ supernumeraries—teachers whose positions have been eliminated but who still get salaries and benefits and are first to be rehired. Another issue was whether to use teachers’ pension money to help the district’s financial woes.