Hundreds of music, art, world language and core content teachers added to school rolls to enhance Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s program for a longer school day will likely be cut as a result of the new school-based budgeting model proposed by Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has found that schools from across the district are seeing cuts in the magnitude of 10 percent to 25 percent as the district continues its bad governance in adding to the chaos of the 2012-2013 school year amidst a record number of school closings and an ongoing state pension crisis.
While planning massive budget cuts, the district has failed to provide concrete plans for generating revenue—either by redirecting tax increment financing (TIF) surpluses back to public schools, ending tax loopholes or raising a new tax levy for pensions that would stabilize the CPS budget and allow the district to pay the full $600 million cost instead of pushing for another pension holiday. A fair tax structure and financial transaction tax would provide more than $6 billion in revenue for schools.
“There is a literal wealth of revenue that the district has ignored,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “CPS claims to act in the interest of the children, but by cutting budgets up to 25 percent in lieu of going after potentially billions of dollars, one has to ask just how much are they really doing?”
“Recently they announced a plan for a ‘quality, 21st century education’,” the nationally board certified educator continued. “Their 21st century plan looks more like a 19th century plan. They are leading our district and students in the wrong direction.”
At Kennedy High School, last year’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year was approximately $14.97 million. The FY2014 budget is $12.85 million, nearly a 13 percent overall decrease. The cuts will require an 80 percent dropped in the number of counselors—from five to one—and the elimination of the librarian position, a clerk position and a sizable loss of special education positions.
Schools that focus on special education may lose the most. At Blair Elementary, seven special education teachers, one general education teacher and close to eight paraprofessional positions will be slashed by a nearly 75 percent cut to their budget. At Northside Learning Center, a school that serves students with cognitive disabilities, eight special education instructors and 14 teacher aides will be lost.
In a district that is already under-resourced by 160 libraries, CPS is planning the elimination of countless librarians. In addition to Kennedy, the CTU has learned that Wacker Elementary School and Robeson, Alcott College Prep, South Shore, Hubbard and King College Prep high schools are all planning to eliminate librarian positions. At Nancy B. Jefferson Elementary School, the school has been unable to buy books or fulfill department orders for two years and will experience even more drastic supply and position cuts this coming school year.
“The district spent $37 million less on textbooks in 2012 than in 2009 and has asked teachers for more than $100 million in concessions in each of the last four years via moves like mass layoffs, rescinded raises, and pension relief,” said CTU Policy Researcher and Budget Committee member Kurt Hilgendorf. “The wave of mass school closures that tore apart school communities was justified as a money-saving action, while at the same time, unproven “reform” efforts like new testing systems and constant administrative reorganizations receive more funding.”
One of the CPS’s central arguments to justify school closings was the need to eliminate split-level classes where two elementary grades are merged into one classroom due to staffing shortages. The proposed budgets, however, will likely require a proliferation of split-level classes throughout the district.
One such school, Mitchell Elementary, has a budget shortage of approximately $780,000—7.8 positions—compared to last year. There is only one class per grade at Mitchell, and 7.8 positions amounts to 1/3rd of the school’s faculty and staff, which will likely require split-level classes to function. A number of other elementary schools have reported to the CTU that their administrations are preparing for split-level classes and massive losses of special education personnel next year.
The CTU has also found that the following schools will see a large reduction in their budgets:
TEAM Englewood Community Academy High School— (-) $400,000
Steinmetz High School—(-) $700,000, which equals 10-12 teachers/paraprofessionals
Taft High School— (-) $3 million
Roosevelt High School— (-) $1.1 million
Eberhart Elementary—(-) $1.5 million
Foreman High School—(-) $1.7 million
Gage Park High School—(-) $1 million
Jamieson Elementary School—$200,000
Kenwood Academy High School—(-) $1.76 million
Lincoln Park High School—between (-) $900,000 and (-)$1 million
Mitchell Elementary School—(-) $788,000
Social Justice High School—(-) $800,000
In closing a record 50 campuses and cutting budgets at schools citywide, CPS continues to balance its budget at the expense of Chicago’s children in an approach that has created instability, uncertainty, and unsurprisingly, uneven educational outcomes.
“The district’s solution has been to aggressively cut resources that benefit students and spend scarce resources on unproven initiatives rather than identify and forcefully advocate for new revenue,” Lewis said. “This year’s budget portends more of the same.”