Today is the first Monday of summer and the last day of school. Our children are sweltering in un-air conditioned schools, due to making up the days they missed back in September during the teacher's strike. Now, in the final days of the year, we are learning schools have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving principals, teachers and parents in awe.
As I look at this crisis, I am doing my best to see the matter objectively, not selfishly. I was able to speak with teachers, the administration, and parents to further understand the situation.
I am listening to WBEZ The final goodbyes at CPS closing schools. It is heartbreaking to hear teachers and students saying their saying final goodbyes at the many closing schools throughout the city. Matthew Henson Elementary School Principal came on the loud speaker in the final moments of the schools existence reminding the kids to read every day and the importance of education. "Leave our school peacefully and positively."
We are learning there is $65 millions dollars in budget cuts and, below, are some of the schools affected:
Beaubien Elementary School: $700,000
Whitney Young High School: $1.1M
Curie HS: $3 million
Kelly HS: more than $2M
Lane Tech HS: $2M
Portage Park: $800,000
Kennedy HS: $2M
Mather HS: more than $1M
Amundsen High: $780,000
Gage Park High: $1M
Roosevelt High: $1.1M
Lincoln Park High: $1.06M
Mather High: $1.2M
Kelvyn Park High School: $1.6M
Foreman High: $1.7M
According to DNAinfoChicago:
"When I saw these numbers, my jaw dropped," Fitzner said as he presented Audubon's financials for the 2013-14 school year to the 50 attendees. "These are below state foundations."
The net loss for the school amounts to $400,912, which would translate into four to six teaching positions being cut and class sizes rising to 37-45 students, according to Fitzner. Eliminating one of two seventh-grade teachers would result in 61 students in a single homeroom, he said.
"There's a vision I have for the school: That kids get an individualized education that plays to their strengths," Fitzner said. "You can't do that with 41 kids in a class."
The budget cuts, which are happening across the district, are largely due to a new system in which CPS is allocating funds to schools on a per-student basis. In previous years, schools were allotted per-position, not per-student, funding from the district's Central Office.
"We really need to organize and put pressure on our political officials," said LSC parent representative Jill Bass. "It's child abuse what [CPS is] offering us."
I contacted Chicago Public Schools to allow them to explain their point of view and this was their response:
Key facts from the Office of Communications:
School budgets and the districtwide budget will not be complete for several weeks, and, as is practice every year, this information will become public once this process is final and we are prepared to propose a budget to the public and the Board.
There are lots of factors that influence how much a school will receive in funding, such as increases or decreases in enrollment, children living at the poverty level, and the number of children with special needs, among many others.
Despite having a billion-dollar budget deficit, the impact of that on schools will be minimal this year by the time this process is over because we are using multiple tools—from one-time revenues in our reserves to spending reductions at Central Office—to eliminate that deficit despite a $400 million increase this year in our pension payment and other contractual obligations, as well as flat and declining revenues that have created this historic deficit facing the district.
A teacher at a neighborhood high school who, of course, wants to be anonymous for job security told me.
"Our enrollment has steadily been increasing, and next year we're going up by another 300. At the same time, our budget is being cut by a million dollars. In this system, it seems that only the very privileged and the very poorest receive any money or attention. The vast number of "regular" kids get barely anything, and are about to get a lot less."
Parent Laurie Viets, whose 4 years old son is in the Pre-K program at Daniel C. Beard Elementary is very concerned. Beard is a specialty school that serves children ages 3-8 who all have special needs-primarily Autism and Severe Emotional Disorders.
"The school has been amazing for our son and the changes that we have seen in him since starting Beard last September have been incredible. His classroom had an amazing teacher and two wonderful aids. I have met every single teacher, bus aid, counselor, therapist, etc. Nobody there was dispensable. They were all working hard for our children, displaying amazing compassion and patience and enthusiasm for their education. Now I read that we are losing a minimum of 7 teachers and 10 paraprofessionals. The school is small-Pre-K to third grade-where are they going to find 7 teachers to let go? How is that going to happen and still allow the school to function? The letter stated that if we added more students they would get more funding and then might be able to hire back positions. But when it comes to special needs-in this case Autism-you can't just shove a few extra desks in the room and expect everything to be OK. These children need small class sizes, special technology and therapists, social workers and specialists. They need help. The families need help."
So, now what? I have been an advocate for Chicago Public School from the beginning, but since hearing about major funding cuts, families in the city (myself included) have some big decisions to figure out.
Education is crucial for all children. As parents, it is one of our biggest dilemmas to find the program that will help to mold our child into the adult we hope they become. Here is to hoping Chicago Public Schools and The City of Chicago can find away to provide the funds for the many children growing up in our city to get the best education possible.
Whether you live in Chicago or somewhere else, please share any ideas you may have about what we as parents can do to take action.
Continue the conversation on Facebook here and type your email address in the box below and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.