H.S. students walk out to protest cuts

March 2, 2010 2:51:27 PM PST
A few hundred students skipped class Tuesday to protest proposed budget cuts that would eliminate teachers, some classes and change graduation requirements.

The walk-out at Morton East High School in near west suburban Cicero drew so many students out of the school buildings that Cicero police swarmed the area. At one point, officers threatened to arrest students.

"We want credits! We want credits!" students chanted.

The students are getting a lesson in the real costs of a state that can't pay its bills and a school that has to balance its budget.

"They want to cut down our budget, they want to cut down our sports. Where is all this money going to? It's like they're giving up on us, no!" said Iris Archilla, Morton East High School freshman.

At 9 a.m., 300 hundred students walked out of Morton East High School. They're unhappy about a plan to more than 60 teachers, reduce the number of hours needed to graduate and scrap some electives.

"All they said, they're going to give us an education, they're not going to give us a good, good education," said Yanita Rodriguez, Morton East High School sophomore.

Yanita Rodriguez is an honors student at Morton East. She says normally she'd be the last person to ditch school-- but drawing attention to the cuts is worth it.

"There was a board of education meeting last week and they asked, 'Who wants a better school?' Everyone raised their hands. They said, 'Who wants to pay more taxes?' It was silent. Nobody. Nobody," said Rodriguez.

"It's not the best school in the world and if we lower the standards it will decrease," said John Lechuga, Morton East High School sophomore.

While the students protested outside, administrators on the inside were outlining the impact of the cuts for those who chose to stay and listen. School officials insist they'll only cut electives with low enrollment. As for the lowering of graduation standards, a school spokesperson they're simply being brought in-line with other Illinois schools.

"The district is put in a very difficult position by the state of Illinois. There's $1.7 million the district is owed just for this year that it hasn't received," said Eric Kohn, Morton High School District spokesman.

The school plans to hold students responsible for skipping class Tuesday. Some could face suspension.