Illinois Republicans to push for state takeover of Chicago schools

CHICAGO Illinois’ two top Republican legislators plan to push a package that would allow for a state takeover of the cash-strapped Chicago public school system, permit the district to file for municipal bankruptcy and allow for city-wide school board elections, three sources briefed on the plan said on Wednesday.

The plan has the backing of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who has embraced allowing local governments facing financial turmoil to file for bankruptcy. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who controls the city’s schools, opposes the plan, according to a statement from his office.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, both Republican allies of Rauner, plan to announce details on legislation at a Wednesday morning news conference.

The nation’s third-largest school system has a structural budget deficit topping $1 billion and credit ratings that have fallen deep into the “junk” level. The district’s current budget has a $480 million gap that officials hope to fill with bigger pension funding support from the state. But the plan has become entangled in state budget stalemate between Rauner and Democrats, who control the legislature.

“No one likes to hear the word bankruptcy, but if you can’t borrow any more and expenses are just way above your assets, you’re left with little else,” a source familiar with the plan told Reuters.

(Additional reporting By Karen Pierog; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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