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CPS to raise property taxes to the legal maximum

Updated: July 29, 2012 5:14PM

For the second year in a row, Chicago Public School officials under Mayor Rahm Emanuel will raise property taxes for schools to the maximum allowed by law, yielding the cash-strapped system $41 million.

The 1.5 percent increase should cost the average homeowner $28 a year, school officials said Wednesday.

The $41 million in new revenue will help CPS plug an estimated deficit of up to $700 million — including $114 million in lost federal and state funds — just as it battles with teachers to replace a union contract that expires June 30.

The district must use “every tool and dollar available” to preserve “our commitment to class size, the full school day and early child development,’’ Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale said in a news release.

“We don’t take an increase lightly, but for $28 a year, we believe that taxpayers will want to help protect and maintain funding for programs that support student growth and their success in the classroom,’’ Vitale said.

Earlier Wednesday, the co-founder of Parents 4 Teachers predicted that if teachers strike, “many, many hundreds’’ of parents will join them on the picket line because the teachers union’s desires reflect most parent desires.

Erica Clark contended teachers are pushing the smaller class sizes, art, music and facilities upgrades that parents want, but district officials and the mayor seem to have another agenda.

“There’s a huge disconnect between what the board thinks kids deserve and what parents think kids deserve,” Clark said at a news conference immediately before the Chicago School Board’s monthly meeting.

“Good teaching conditions are good learning conditions,” Clark said.

Vitale told the Chicago Sun-Times later that “there’s very little that those folks suggested that we wouldn’t want, but we have a reality that we have to live with. There are only so many resources.’’

Board members have chosen to back a longer school day and maintain class size, rather than try to lower it.

“I’m a CPS parent,’’ Vitale said. “I’m not going to accept the fact that they [Parents 4 Teachers] are the only parents speaking for all parents in the city…. It’s our responsibility to make the best judgments we can, and they are judgments that are consistent with what a lot of parents agree with.”

Also Wednesday, School Board members agreed to continue paying the Academy for Urban School Leadership, where Vitale previously served as board chairman, “turnaround’’ funds of $420 a student at Harvard and Sherman Elementary Schools.

AUSL took over management of Sherman in 2006 and Harvard in 2007, replacing existing staff and principals, but “turning around a school is a process, not an event,’’ said CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler. “We want to continue the positive momentum that has been established by AUSL.’’

CPS officials also announced that deputy general counsel James Bebley, a CPS graduate who grew up in Englewood and the Harold Ickes Homes on the Near South Side, will replace general counsel Patrick Rocks.

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