Bell Elementary School, one of six Chicago Public Schools that has voted against its proposed school budget, is holding a special meeting of its Local School Council Monday evening to discuss and vote on an additional $100,000 CPS is offering -- provided the group approves the budget this week.
At least two other North Side schools who say the budgets proposed by CPS cut too deeply and rejected them, also recently have been offered the extra $100,000 in student-based budget money.
Alex Pramenko, chair of the LSC at Audubon, which has been cut by 400,000 and offered the money, thinks his school was chosen “because we complained and didn’t pass it.
“What, are they trying to shut us up because we’re a middle class neighborhood?” Pramenko said. “And why is it all so secretive?”
CPS changed its budgeting method this year to allocate a set sum of money to schools for each child enrolled, and to let principals decide how to spend that money - whether on more teachers or supplies or programs. The district, which won’t release the budgets until the end of this month when they’re finalized, says the “student-based budgeting” affords more autonomy to principals. Many schools say it’s left them with tough decisions on how to spend far less money than last year. Raise Your Hand, the parent group, has amassed numbers from more than 150 schools totaling at least $95 million in budget cuts.
Six schools, all in well-to-do areas, so far have rejected their draft budgets, four outright: Blaine Elementary, Whitney Young Magnet High School, Edgebrook Elementary, and Kellogg Elementary School. Two more, Audubon and Bell, have since rescinded previous approval votes. Blaine and Audubon also have set meetings for Wednesday evening to discuss the same grant.
Kellogg, 9241 S. Leavitt, the only South Side school known to vote no, has not been offered or given any additional money from CPS, according to parent LSC member Lisa Myles. Not yet, anyway, she said. “I was curious, wondering. I don’t know how they chose those three schools. It also seemed discrimnatory to do that,” she said. “For them to offer this amount to those schools is not necessarily a good thing because it encourages them to jump ship and leave the rest of us fighting.”
Kellogg’s cut of $385,000 so far means the loss of 2.5 general education teachers, parent aides in several classrooms and substitute teachers while teachers attend professional development, Myles said.
Bell’s budget for the upcoming school year is about $745,000 less than last year’s. Blaine’s is about $600,000 and Audubon’s is about $400,000, according to the schools, which will convene their LSCs for special meetings Wednesday night to consider the grants.
Common Sense, a coalition of LSCs across the district called the grant money “a step toward restoring budgets but this grant is merely a drop in the bucket for schools who have lost several hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Kate Schott Bolduc of Common Sense. “This also isn’t a system-wide solution; schools on the South and West sides stand to suffer as much as North Side schools. I would ask why those schools aren’t seeing relief.”