This week was a tough one for advocates of CPS neighborhood schools. On Wednesday, a lawsuit filed by the Chicago Teacher’s Union to keep 10 closing public schools open was denied. Despite recommendations made by independent hearing officers to keep the 10 schools open, the school board shuttered them this Spring, along with 39 other public schools across the city.
The news coincided with revelations that budget cuts to CPS classrooms would vastly exceed the school board’s estimates. CPS’s preliminary budget predicted $68 million in classroom cuts; take hikes at contract and charter schools out of the equation, and the reduction in funding to CPS neighborhood schools is over $100 million. According to parent advocate group Raise Your Hand, the hit could total up to $162 million.
“The cut to traditional CPS schools is huge,” said Wendy Katten, co-founder of Raise Your Hand. “It’s not about cutting because they needed to balance the budget, it’s because they chose to redistribute money to areas they wanted to prioritize.”
– Chicago Tribune, 07/31/13
Already, questions are being raised about the cuts. Mayor Emanuel has denied the use of TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money in closing the schools’ budget deficit, stating that nearly all of the $1.7 billion in TIF-funds is set aside for TIF-related projects. Further, Catalyst Chicago is calling for the investigation of a three-year, no-bid $20 million contract awarded to a teacher and administrator training program that CPS Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennet used to work for.
Progress Illinois has published an interview with Irene Robinson, a 48-year old African American woman living on the South Side, and her granddaughter Akilra, talking about the effect that the closure of their neighborhood school will have on their family. Their defiant and perseverant speech mirrors that of parents and students 50 years ago, just as dissatisfied with the quality of Chicago’s public education as they are today. Read the full story or watch below:
UPDATE: WBEZ’s Linda Lutton has posted an audio recording of a public hearing on Thursday night that turned into a poisonous confrontation between CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley and community members. One outraged parent even went so far as to call for a mass boycott:
“I personally feel that voices calling for a boycott sound a lot more necessary and just next to the empty promises of Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school board.”