More CPS cuts for upcoming school year

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By Patrice Nkrumah, Chicago Crusader

During an appearance on the South Side on Wednesday morning, Chicago Public Schools’ CEO Forrest Claypool announced the budget for CPS this upcoming school year.

The news is not good for the city’s 392,000 students as principals will have to make some painful decisions in terms of which programs to cut, staff to eliminate and how to keep their schools functional.

Claypool said the budget will ensure classrooms have the resources to continue academic growth and credits much of this due to the compromise that was reached in Springfield last month.

“Just a few weeks ago, CPS faced the real prospect of unavoidable, devastating cuts. Thankfully, those cuts are off the table,” stated Claypool. “We will continue to tighten our belts, but thanks to the collaborative efforts of state leaders and Chicagoans that significantly reduced the District’s budget deficit, our schools will open this fall with the resources to continue their remarkable academic progress.”

CPS will spend about $4,087 per pupil, which is a reduction from the start of last school year, but the same as it was in February when cuts were first announced. CPS officials also said they were relieved that the school year will start on time—something that was precarious, at best, at the end of this past school year. “While we have work ahead of us, thanks to the deep commitment by our teachers, parents and the entire CPS community, the school year will start as scheduled, and students will receive the resources and critical instruction time that they need to be successful,” said CPS Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson.

Many are concerned about the upcoming cuts that CPS officials are calling “management efficiencies.” CPS claims they will be consolidating the monies saved from cuts to hire part-time art, physical education and music teachers in response to complaints from parents that these important programs have been removed from curriculums. The cuts combined with the compromise in Springfield and a major tax hike for property owners in Chicago is how CPS will be able to fund this year’s budget.

In response to Claypool’s budget announcement, the Chicago Teachers Union issued a response stating while they are happy the amount per pupil will not be reduced any further, all of the other items in the budget should be of concern for Chicagoans.

CTU says the budget does nothing to address the major concerns; one of which is the continued gap between funding for neighborhood schools versus select-enrollment schools. They are also calling for a long-term plan to fix the fiscal crisis that CPS has been mired in for years once and for all.

“While we are glad that 40 percent of the student-based budgeting (SBB) is off the table, school budgets are still lower than last year,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Unacceptable school-level cuts continue, and to be clear, these fiscal decisions hurt our students. A short-term fix from Springfield cannot resolve the long-term damage done to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) by the Chicago Board of Education and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Simply put, our schools need sustainable, progressive revenue.”

He went on to say, “We’ve had year after year of reductions in support personnel to schools, and ‘efficiencies’ that principals have tried to wring out of their schools. There have been hundreds of millions in cuts that CPS claims are ‘away from the classroom,’ but they have cut essential programming from transportation, counseling, after-school programs, and even school libraries. Meanwhile, CPS has continued its decades-long practice of furthering segregation by funneling capital funds (long-term debt) towards expanding selective-enrollment buildings while neglecting the ‘under-enrolled’ neighborhood schools in their shadow.”

Sharkey continued by calling the CPS plans “vague” and said people will not really know the extent of the cuts in this budget and their long-term effects until well into the school year. He said raising taxes on those who make the most in Chicago, in addition to taxing transactions made at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board of Options, is a better long-term solution.

“The real choice is the one that the CTU has posed repeatedly: choosing to raise revenue from the wealthy to make our schools whole…and not cede to the status quo of relegating urban public education to under-funding and worsening segregation. TIFs [tax increment financing] and a corporate head tax will resolve the budget gap completely and result in no cuts to our classrooms. Mayor Emanuel, CPS, Forrest Claypool, and their wealthy friends and developers should pay their fair share instead of paying lip service to teachers, students and parents.”

Lois Bradford-Jackson said she is transferring her daughter out of a CPS school and moving to suburban Burbank where she is buying a home with her new husband. She said as a property owner and mother of a 15-year-old sophomore, she can no longer wait for CPS to get its act together.

“I had my daughter at Bogan last year, and I was not happy and neither was her dad who lives in another state,” she told the Crusader. “There were a lot of fights at the school and little curriculum. So, we figure if we move just three miles further west, we can be completely out of the city and our daughter will be able to enroll at Reavis and get a better educational experience. I also was not pleased with the property tax increase bill I got two weeks ago.”

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