Groups protest CPS preschool cuts

March 24, 2010 5:10:12 PM PDT
The budget crisis in Illinois is forcing Chicago Public Schools to end preschool classes for many children. Some parents, teachers and community leaders say it is the wrong way to balance the budget.

Preschoolers scampered to and from the Barbara Vick Early Childhood and Family Center Wednesday morning. It's a blended school - kids with special needs are in the classroom with children who are typically developing. Parents say in this environment all kids learn.

"She was very shy when she first started. She didn't interact with kids. Now she's a different person. She's very outgoing. She looks forward to coming here," said Pearl Doody, parent.

"There are wonderful programs here, a lot of opportunity for the kids to get individualized attention to address if there's any special needs, those can looked at and pinpointed early on," said Charlotte Cager, parent.

Vick School is among 300 Chicago schools that gets a lot of its money from the state's Preschool for All Children Program.There's word that program is slated to lose 35 percent of its budget. Chicago Public Schools has begun identifying schools that could lose funding if the budget cut is approved. Vick's principal was notified this week.

"If there is a positive in all of this, it's that on March 22nd I found out and we have time to make our voices heard and make the needs of the children known," said Cathy Lawton, Vick Early Childhood & Family Center.

That's just what some parents did at Wednesday's Chicago public school board meeting.

"In a few years when these looming budget issues are back under control it will be too late for our children who will be so far beyond in their educational journey," said Kerry Sloyan, parent.

"As having discretion over the funds allotted to our program, we challenge you to make us a CPS priority," said Maria Belmontez, parent.

CPS' Ron Huberman responded by saying, "we think Barbara Vick is a great model school. We don't want to cut. So we're gonna work with you."

The chief of early childhood education for CPS met with the parents during the meeting and plans to continue meeting with Vick's parents to look at ways to cope with proposed budget cuts.

"It is very painful when you know how important this to families," said Barbara Bowman, CPS early childhood education.

The Frederick Stock Early Childhood Center was also notified by CPS about the possible cut.

CPS hopes to warn schools that may be impacted so that parents have time to look for other options.

The cuts may impact up 10,000 Chicago Public School students and students at community schools in the city. Parents ABC7 spoke with Wednesday plan to rally legislators in Springfield.