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CPS school councils to politicians: Stop the blame game, fund the schools

Local school council members from public schools across the city can’t understand why their children’s schools took such severe budget hits this year, and asked Chicago Public Schools and leaders to stop playing the blame game and find a funding solution together.

At the rally outside the Thompson Center on Tuesday hosted by the Common Sense Coalition of LSCs, Avondale Logandale parents said CPS is projecting them to lose six students from last year but $248,048 total.

That’s $41,341 per student projected to leave, they announced on printed signs.

“The budgets that we received are based on formulas, they’re not based on the needs of students,” Martha Velez said through a Spanish interpreter.

Velez said her school has attained CPS top ratings level — Level 1+ but “in exchange for that, we’re getting cuts and cuts and cuts.”

That means more teachers will get laid off, she said, and more children will pile into classrooms.

“I would like to know if the governor was in a classroom, when he was a child, with over 40 students in his classroom?”

CPS released individual school budgets last week — late in the summer for schools to plan — and has yet to publish its overall budget proposal that must be approved by the end of August.

The district has been blaming a lack of action in Springfield for its financial woes, and is banking on $500 million in relief from state legislators or will further cut the schools’ budgets. CPS also warned schools that under student-based budgeting, they will see cuts if enrollment drops but funding increases if it rises. Each student is allotted between $4,300 and $5,500 depending on the grade.

Some 1,050 layoffs of school staffers are in the works.

Local School Councils are tasked with approving their school’s spending.

But Darwin Elementary LSC parent rep Jennie Fronczak said the Logan Square school lost some $200,000 for only three students.

She urged the legislators and the mayor to find a solution before the cuts grow worse, saying “LSC members cannot do our jobs until politicians do theirs.”

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said Logandale and Darwin elementary schools saw such large reductions this year because they weren’t penalized last year after they lost students. For the past two years of student-based budgeting, CPS held budgets steady at schools that lost enrollment. Logandale had kept $142,000 and Darwin about $53,000, she said.

Logandale also lost bilingual students but gained some money for poor students. Darwin also lost extra money it used to get for employing teachers who were more experienced than the district’s average, she said, but staff turnover in recent years drove down the school’s average.

“No one would argue that these are the budgets that we would like to be presenting, but they reflect the reality of where we are today,” Bittner said.

More budget protests are planned Wednesday morning by the Chicago Teachers Union and by charter school supporters before the newly constituted Chicago Board of Education holds its monthly meeting.