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Local School Council members call for AG Lisa Madigan to audit CPS finances

Jeanette Taylor LSC member Jackie RobinsHigh School MollisElementary School. | Lauren FitzPatrick~Sun-Times

Jeanette Taylor, LSC member of Jackie Robinson High School and Mollison Elementary School. | Lauren FitzPatrick~Sun-Times

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A sampling of school based cuts as reported by Raise Your Hand parent members and LSCs. CPS has not yet published the draft budgets and says they won’t until they are finalized sometime in July.

Amundsen HS: $780,000

Audubon: $400,000

Beasley: $550,000

Belding: $400,000

Bell: $750,00

Burr: $365,853

Darwin: $723,700

Gage Park HS: $1,000,000

Gale: $500,000

Goethe: $265,000

Grimes Fleming: $458,000

Foreman HS: $1,700,000

Jamieson: $290,000

Kennedy HS: $2,150,000

Kozminsky: $250,000

Lane Tech: $2,000,000

Lincoln Park HS: $1,060,000

Mather: $1,200,000

Mitchell: $788,000

Murphy: $700,000

Pritzker: $186,000

Ray: $400,000

Roosevelt HS: $1,100,000

Suder: $750,000

Sutherland: $253,000

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Updated: July 19, 2013 6:16AM

Local School Council members of about a dozen Chicago Public Schools lamented proposed budget cuts for their schools Monday morning and called on Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to audit CPS finances.

The LSC members, who help principals make financial decisions for schools, signed a letter outside CPS headquarters asking Madigan to audit the district’s budget, then shredded copies of proposed budgets for several CPS schools.

The letter said the cuts “revealed to schools last week show that the 50 school closings approved for next year will not save any money and should be rescinded.” Madigan should “get to the root of the educational malpractice the district is currently engaged in,” suggested the letter signed by LSCs from schools across the city, including Burroughs Elementary, Kelly High School, Mollison Elementary and Henson Elementary.

“We want to know what CPS has done with our money,” said Jeanette Taylor, who sits on LSCs for Jackie Robinson High School and Mollison elementary school, calling the per-pupil budgeting “unfair”.

“CPS is asking LSC members to basically fire veteran teachers and choose who stays and who goes. This is what we say to their budget,” she said, dropping a packet of papers into a shredder.

Kelly High School might have to get rid of 10 to 15 teachers with the cuts they’ve so far sustained, said LSC member Anita Caballero.

“It’s the mayor and CPS who gave schools less money,” Caballero said. “They closed 50 schools in Chicago and then cut millions of dollars from the rest of our schools. Meanwhile, the mayor is building another stadium with our tax dollars,” she continued, referring to a new stadium deal with DePaul University.

“Is that right?” she asked as the 30 people behind her said “No!”

CPS, which will shutter a record 48 of 50 approved schools during the next week, has said that the new method of budgeting, based directly on the number of children enrolled, gives principals greater autonomy over who they hire and which programs they maintain. The district says it faces a $1 billion budget deficit for the 2013-14 school year. A district spokeswoman said last week that the budgets released so far are only drafts and likely will change, resulting in more money for some schools and less for others.

District spokeswoman Becky Carroll emailed a statement Monday saying that the district is “using every available resource to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.

“Even during these difficult financial times, next year’s school budgets will provide principals with unprecedented autonomy to invest dollars to best support student learning and growth,” she continued.

CPS already publishes an annual audit of its finances, including the budget, called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that’s conducted by an outside law firm after the end of each fiscal year.

Madigan’s spokeswoman, Natalie Bauer said Monday evening her office hadn’t yet received the letter, but would review it to see what, if any, steps the office might take.

The parent group Raise Your Hand, which has been collecting figures from the draft budgets, reported an overall loss of about $45 million from about 10 percent of schools they’ve contacted.

For example, they say Lane Tech High School has lost $2 million, Lincoln Park High School has lost $1.06 million, and Mather High School has lost $1.2 million.

They say the per-pupil formula, which is resulting in significantly less money in many CPS schools, is going to force principals to cut teachers, potentially resulting in larger class sizes.

“This is not autonomy, this is an atrocity,” the group said in a statement. “At a time when CPS has shuttered 50 schools in order to ‘save money,’ we find it deplorable that less than two weeks later they have not only not saved, but are continuing to make widespread, deep cuts that will negatively impact our school system.”

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