Students protest at CPS schools, HQ

April 8, 2010 6:37:04 PM PDT
Hundreds of students closed their books and walked out of the classroom to protest proposed CPS cuts on Friday while state officials met to discuss the school funding crisis.The students say budget cuts proposed by Chicago Public Schools will have a negative impact on their education.

The public school system is facing a budget deficit that is approaching $1 billion. In addition to teacher layoffs and program cuts, administrators have proposed an increase in class size.

"We won't have an education. There will be no future. We are the future," said Michelle Chimbat, Lincoln Park H.S. Sophomore.

At least nine other CPS schools had protests, including Little Village High School where teens left the building at 9:30 a.m. and marched to CPS headquarters to encourage school officials to close the budget deficit of at least $700 million by cutting expenses from the top down.

"While we want them to stay in school and they should be applauded for at least paying attention to how this situation can impact their education," said Monique Bond, Chicago Public Schools.

Parents like Randi Bauer,- whose daughter attends Inter-American Magnate School, joined the group's pilgrimage from Federal Plaza to City Hall.

"It is a helpless feeling. And we're here today hoping that they can realize how tragic this situation is and figure out how to get the money from somewhere else," said Bauer.

Cuts to early-childhood education, bilingual programs, sports and after-school programs are all on the table. Class size could also increase to 37 students as 32-hundred teachers could be displaced.

"In order to play sports you have to have good academics so it keeps me off the streets and keeps me from doing bad things I know I could get in trouble for," said Courtney Ceaser, Social Justice High School student.

The protest coincided with a private meeting between school officials from across the state to discuss the education budget crisis.

"This is a death blow to schools. Schools are hurting. People are hurting and children will be hurting," said Dr. Brent Clark, Illinois Assn. of School Administrators.

"My message to Springfield is this: Do not balance the books on the back of our students," said Supt. Dr. Jose Torres, Elgin School District U-46

A pension bill on Governor Pat Quinn's desk may help reduce the CPS shortfall, but it still leaves behind a heavy deficit. There's about three weeks left in the legislative session, and school officials are hoping for a school funding fix.