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Alderman Questions CPS Decision To Spend Millions On Office Furniture

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Less than a year after CPS closed dozens of schools and laid off thousands of employees, it's getting ready to spend millions on an office move.

CBS 2's Dana Kozlov reports questions are flying about how the supposedly broke system can afford it.

It's been a tumultuous year for CPS, filled with protests and anger about the shuttering of schools, teacher cuts and program cutbacks. Imagine the reaction to news that Chicago Public School officials are ready to spend $5 million on new headquarter offices and planning to ask the board to amend an existing $4.5 million contract with Staples, an office supply store.

"I don't think they can justify it all," said 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti

Fioretti says the amount raises questions about CPS' priorities and exactly how much a headquarter move should cost in these cash-strapped times. CPS is planning on moving its offices from 125 South Clark to the soon-to-be vacant Sears building a few blocks away. A CPS spokesperson says the $5 million to purchase, deliver and install new office furniture was already budgeted, adding the move, "is part of CPS overall strategy to re-structure and streamline its central office". The additional, $4.5 million in that Staples contract will be used for office supplies and furniture district-wide.

CPS Defends Move To Buy New Furniture

Fioretti isn't alone. The executive director of 'Raise Your Hand' calls the expenditure exorbitant, adding the district needs to prioritize classroom over central office spending.

CPS spokesperson Joel Hood says the move should save the system $60 million over the next 15 years. The school board vote on the matter is Wednesday.

Hood told WBBM's Bob Roberts the old furniture won't be cheap to move and doesn't fit the style of the modern 1 North Dearborn space.

"Simply the cost of breaking down the existing furniture, transporting it over there, rebuilding it, dealing with whatever might break, that's going to be a pretty expensive move in and of itself.," said Hood.

Hood says some of the old furniture will be used to re-outfit the board's eight satellite administrative offices, although he says they will get some new furniture as well.

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