CPS students protest budget cuts

May 5, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The students have a lot of anxiety about being in classrooms with 35 students next year. Some know which of their teachers would be laid off under the proposed budget cuts. So they organized a rally which drew nearly 800 students from Whitney Young alone, according to the principal, to put the pressure on Springfield.

They took their message to the doorstep of Chicago Public School headquarters. Hundreds of high school students, most from Whitney Young, added their voices to the call for legislators in Springfield to come through with more funding in order to stave off proposed budget cuts.

The crowd grew so large they marched to the Thompson Center for a rally. There, they spoke out against proposals to layoff teachers and raise the class size from an average of 28 students to 35.

"My education gets decreased and they're cutting from my education to get rid of the deficit when we're the important ones here," said Jakub Mulica, Whitney Young student.

Students started organizing the rally Monday night through social networking.

"This is not an excuse to cut class. This is us taking responsibility that state legislators downstate should have taken ages ago," said Diana Rosen, Whitney Young student.

"A cut of one class isn't going to affect me that much compared to the education that I'm gonna get in the future," said Sacha Dunkin, Whitney Young student.

The rally called for students to miss part of the school day. It was not condoned by school administrators who will give each student who took part a detention on Saturday.

"I applaud the students to be conscientious about their issues and conscientious about their concerns for teachers about class sizes and all issues surrounding the state deficit," said Dr. Joyce Kenner, principal, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School.

Also lobbying for more funding from Springfield is the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Ron Huberman. He had to make tough choices in his budget to correlate with the governor's proposal of a $1.3 billion cut in statewide education funding.

"No one wants - I, the board, anyone here - wants to see class size grow by a single student. We don't want to see a single program cut. It's just the brutal reality of having to try to close a $600 million deficit," said Huberman.

Huberman says there have been cutbacks outside of the classroom such as 800 layoffs at the district headquarters. Also, all non-union employees making more an $50,000 are being asked to take 21 unpaid furlough days, which will save the district $9 million.

In the meantime in Springfield, Gov. Quinn is hoping for an income tax increase to help with funding, but that looks unlikely. He's also pushing for a cigarette tax to close that $1.3 billion funding gap.

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