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Local School Councils unite to fight CPS budget cuts

Updated: July 1, 2013 8:29PM

Local School Councils at several Chicago Public Schools have formed a new coalition to fight drastic budget cuts to their proposed school budgets.

Common Sense: Coalition of LSCs for Fair Funding comprises at least 20 elementary and four high schools, mostly on the North and Northwest Sides, who plan to publicly reject their draft budgets on Tuesday.

Their announcement coincided with CPS announcing the hiring of more temporary workers to help with school closings.

“In the short term, we want CPS and city and state officials to sit down and quickly find a solution to fully restore the budgets of all CPS schools,” Kate Schott Bolduc, of Blaine Elementary’s LSC in Lake View, said Monday. Blaine has lost $600,000, which so far means no more art or music. Common Sense says its computation shows that the 24 schools it is tracking account for $13 million in budget cuts.

“We can’t solve the problem for Blaine if we don’t solve the problem for all CPS schools,” Bolduc said, adding that she didn’t know what would happen after LSCs reject budgets.

CPS changed its budgeting from a system that allots positions to a school to one that doles out a set amount of money per student and lets the principal decide how to spend it. CPS hasn’t released any of the drafts, saying they typically don’t until budgets are finalized later this month.

A CPS spokeswoman did not directly answer questions about the LSC rejections, instead emailing a statement that said: “We will continue working to identify other savings so that we can further minimize impacts on our students.”

The district also pointed to the Illinois School Code, which says that “the expenditure plan developed by the principal with respect to amounts available from the fund for prioritized special needs programs and the allocated lump sum amount must be approved by the local school council.”

It did not specify what happens if an LSC rejects a budget.

As of Monday, Raise Your Hand, a parent group, said it had found about $84 million in school-based cuts at fewer than 145 schools, some of which overlap with the Common Sense group’s schools.

In the wake of the 48 school closings and many draft budget cuts, CPS said Monday it had hired 245 people to help school transitions in time for the first day of school.

Along with the Chicago Department of Family Support Services, CPS hired 200 youths ages 16 to 24 to pack up the 48 schools that closed for good in the last two weeks and move furniture and other contents to the schools designated to receive children displaced by closings, the district said in a news release. Forty-five who were hired earlier in June will pack, move and re-install technology equipment. Each summer worker, chosen by lottery through the One Summer Chicago program, will be paid $8.45 an hour, plus lunch and a $50 Chicago Transit Authority stipend through Aug. 24.

CPS has not yet hired 600 additional community Safe Passage members, but at last week’s board meeting, it approved 19 vendors to manage them. The Safe Passage workers will monitor routes children are expected to walk to get to their new schools.

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