CHICAGO - Chicago public schools failed to open yesterday even though the state waived its requirement that the Chicago Board of Education's budget must be balanced before classes could begin.
The school board decided this weekend to move the beginning of the school year to next Tuesday. The schools' general superintendent, Argie K. Johnson, pushed for the change.
After the decision on Sunday, Johnson warned in a press release of "disastrous results" if the schools opened with an "unprecedented" 7,000 staff vacancies.
The board and the teachers union are deadlocked over a contract, and the schools cannot hire new teachers under the terms of the waiver that the state granted to the balanced-budget requirement.
Gov. Jim Edgar and state lawmakers granted the waiver last Friday so that the schools could open as scheduled yesterday. The waiver also was intended to give legislators until next Sunday to consider a two-year $300 million bonding plan to bail out the school system.
The board faces a $299 million deficit in its $2.8 billion budget for fiscal 1994, which began Sept. 1.
State lawmakers have said that movement between the board and the teachers union is needed before they would approve any bailout plan. But the Chicago Teachers Union on Tuesday unanimously rejected the latest contract offer, which the board has termed "final."
Board and teachers' union officials did not return phone calls yesterday.
Edgar, Senate president James Philip, R-Wood Dale; Senate minority leader Emil Jones, D-Chicago; House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago; and House minority leader Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst, met yesterday afternoon to discuss the bonding plan.
The rest of the legislature is expected to return to the Capitol today.
Standard & Poor's Corp. last week placed about $17 million of the board's BBB-rated general obligation debt on CreditWatch with negative implications, citing the board's persistent difficulty in balancing its budget and the lack of a permanent solution to its fiscal troubles. The rating action also affected about $13.5 million of Chicago Public Building Commission debt secured by the board's lease rental payments. Moody's Investors Service rates the board's GO debt Baa.