CHICAGO (WLS) --The Chicago Public School system is struggling with a growing list of problems. Thursday principals were told to prepare to cut budgets by at least 20 percent if there's no financial help from Springfield. Parents and principals are getting more concerned about the future.
Chicago Public Schools must close a $1 billion budget gap by August. CPS says it wants to give principals enough time to prepare for devastating cuts for the next school year, cuts that principals and parents fear will hit the classroom.
The sign says now is time to enroll at your neighborhood Chicago Public School for the fall but, with the possibility of budget cuts that may be more than 20 percent, some parents are reconsidering CPS as a choice.
"The talk of the neighborhood is, 'do I stay here, or do I start looking for private school now, do I go to the burbs now, do I leave the state now like one of my neighbors just did,'" says Jeff Jenkins, a parent and local school council member.
Jenkins serves on the local school council at Coonley Elementary, a school he says took years of hard work to become one of the best in the district. Principal Mira Weber says her school Agassiz Elementary has come along too, but deep cuts are likely to put their school successes in jeopardy. Weber says she stands to lose more than $500,000 dollars, which means cutting vital positions.
"Reading support, art, whether that is music, dance, drama, PE, library, all of those kinds of things that are crucial to providing a well-rounded education for kids," Weber says.
CPS says the huge cuts can be avoided if Springfield passes an equal funding bill. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says state funding is structured in a way that poorer school districts get less money than wealthier ones.
"I don't expect people to answer or solve our problems for us, we're going to do the hard work, we are going to have further cuts and reforms and efficiencies, but they have to get right decades of wrongs when it comes to education," the mayor said.
And principals insist the latest CPS budget threat is real.
"It is absolutely not crying wolf. I wish that this was going away, but unless something happens in Springfield by May 31st, these reductions will come," Weber says.
And CPS may also have to make dramatic cuts in summer programs. A school official said summer school won't be eliminated entirely, but the magnitude of the cuts will depend on what action Springfield takes.The priority will be to continue serving the most vulnerable students.
May 31 is the last day of the legislative session in Springfield. Webster and other principals plan to use the next few weeks to write letters, emails and call lawmakers around the state to explain how devastating cuts would be.