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Teachers union says new budget system means deep cuts — CPS says not true

BarbarByrd-Bennett addresses medifollowing her speech City Club Chicago May 28 2013.  | JessicKoscielniak ~ Sun-Times

Barbara Byrd-Bennett addresses the media following her speech at the City Club of Chicago May 28, 2013. | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times

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Updated: July 15, 2013 7:58PM

As Chicago Public Schools principals sort out their new student-based budgets for the 2013-14 school year, the Chicago Teachers Union on Thursday reported deep cuts in the budgets of many schools.

Teachers hired for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s longer school day could lose their jobs under the new type of budget, which is based on the number of students who attend a school rather than a set minimum of staff positions, according to the CTU, though the district says staffing decisions are up to principals.

“That program [of hiring extra teachers for the longer day] essentially has not only been eliminated because you don’t have the additional appropriations, but the base budget is also being reduced,” said CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter.

“Here they are coming right back after they claimed they were going to save money [by closing schools] ... and yet they’re saying, ‘Oh by the way we didn’t save any money, now we’re going to have to slash the budget of every school in the system.”

Some schools are losing as much as 10 percent to 25 percent, according to the union, which listed a handful of schools about to see sizeable reductions in their budgets, ranging from a $200,000 loss at Jamieson Elementary School to $3 million at Taft High School.

Several schools also are planning to eliminate their librarians, according to information gathered by the union from members.

And at Mitchell Elementary, which already has just one class for each grade, the $780,000 cut could result in split-grade classes next year, according to the CTU.

Even schools with stable or increasing enrollment are seeing “pretty significant reductions,” Potter said. “It’s an austerity budget, and they’re trying to disguise it saying that principals make the decisions under student-based budgeting.”

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement that “the CTU’s allegations are disappointing and not accurate,” but did not point out errors in the union’s figures. She also hoped the union “will work with us and can contribute to real solutions to the financial crisis facing our schools.”

The district said that the new budgets leave staffing and class size decisions up to principals. CPS has not yet publicized the drafts.

“Many schools will see decreases, and many schools will see increases as well,” CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said. “This is truly equitable way to pay schools.”

Schools will receive some discretionary funding as well, she said.

“With a historic billion-dollar deficit, we are taking every step we can to minimize any impacts to the classroom but by the time this process is done, it will be difficult to avoid any impact because we have to close this deficit.

“This is a very challenging time,” she said.

Joann Krueger, a parent and Local School Council member at Kennedy High School, was aware of a 14 percent cut from nearly $15 million at the Garfield Ridge high school serving nearly 1,450 students, to about $12.85 million — but wouldn’t find out until a meeting Tuesday how the details would play out. “We were just told about the reduction, and he’s sick about it,” Krueger said of the school’s principal. “I know he was extremely upset about it, especially nowadays, so close to the end of he school year to get that budget that’s usually passed by the end of May.”

On Friday, CPS also announced $20.7 million in administrative and central office anticipated savings from the elimination of 96 central office jobs, changes in custodial services and renegotiated landscape contracts and CPS’ move to smaller location.

Earlier this year, CPS announced over $31.6 million of cuts from non-classroom-related expenses, like more efficient engineering contracts and re-negotiated health care contracts.

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