Cardenas and CTU push for TIF changes
November 2, 2018

The chart above, provided by CivicLab and the TIF Illumination Project, shows an increasing amount (in yellow triangle) going to the mayor. Alderman Cardenas and the CTU want more money for Chicago Public Schools.

Late in 2016, 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas announced a tax increment financing (TIF) surplus ordinance intended to direct funds to the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) from TIFs.

Two years later, at the time of this writing, Alderman Cardenas had just finished a conference call with CTU representatives, discussing how lawmakers should update the ordinance “to fit a new narrative and political landscape, not to mention the fact that everything about the inequities in the city has been laid bare,” he said.

According to Cardenas, the community still is not benefiting from TIF funds because they are not reaching lower-income communities, and officials are not investing appropriately to improve this situation.

“When we did this two years ago, obviously [CTU pension and CPS] funding was in dire straits,” said Cardenas. “Now that it’s above grade, we still have needs in schools in terms of counseling, mentoring, and preparing students to become competitive in a competitive landscape.” Cardenas said the City needs to even things out after years of under-developing minority communities and underfunding their schools.

Projects that generate the most TIF revenue happen downtown, according to Kurt Hilgendorf, CTU policy advisor. “When TIF funds are used for school construction, those are used for affluent neighborhoods,” he said.

About one-third of the money collected from property owners goes to TIFs, according to Cardenas. “From year to year, we have about $100 million in additional money in TIFs. But I don’t think we’re making the investments that are needed. We need to shift what’s happening in our local economy. Everything can’t be South Loop, West Loop, and Near North.”

“Last year, the City declared a TIF surplus but used it to pay for security services in the schools,” said CTU’s Hilgendorf. “It did not go to teaching or student resources.” According to Hilgendorf, Chicago Public Schools have far too few nurses, social workers, and special ed teachers to serve students with special needs, and the money should go to those resources. “We’re going to continue to push for real changes in the TIF program,” said Hilgendorf. “We want legislation on the front end without having to leave it to the whims of the mayor.”

Plans for modifying the ordinance are underway. Said Cardenas, “In the next 30 days, we’ll come up with a clearer picture of how we will tweak it to increase funding in the school system.

“There are a lot of companies coming in, and they’re looking for employees, from welders to programmers to you name it, and we just haven’t had a pipeline to fill those jobs,” Cardenas added. “Local talent is being siphoned off. The folks that are moving in from Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio are filling those jobs, but not our folks. They haven’t had the opportunity.

“We need to make sure these kids have a shot at the new jobs and the new economies coming into the city,” he continued. “It doesn’t do any good to have new companies in the community, and kids from our neighborhood schools can’t compete. Minorities are being left behind in this new economy, especially African Americans and Hispanics. We need more apt uses of these funds.”

To contact Cardenas, call (773) 523-8250. For more about the CTU, log on to www.ctunet.com.

—Eva Hoffman