CPS cuts trigger heated debate

June 26, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Some lousy weather was not about to keep parents, teachers and students away from a cause they say affects Chicago Public Schools on every side of the city, budget cuts.

CPS faces a record $1 billion deficit next year.

"The magnitude of this challenge cannot be overstated. It threatens our ability to keep cuts away from the classroom," said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

The fight to keep cuts out of the classroom spilled over into the school board meeting Wednesday, with students staging their own protests as they disrupted the meeting where parent and after parent spoke about budget cuts.

"Mayor Emanuel promotes Chicago as a world class city, so why on Earth would this Board of Ed. give our students a third world education?" said parent Andee Harris.

"It's hard for me to advocate for a parent to send their child to a Chicago Public Schools if they don't know what's going to happen to the programs their expecting to send their children to next year," said parent Jeff Karova.

Parents say their principals have been told budgets must be slashed, so many positions have been cut.

"We had to cut our reading specialist last week and many other positions because we could almost only afford home room teachers for our school. The full day pretty empty and Burley Elementary this fall," said Wendy Katten.

To come up with much needed revenue, many begged the school board to re-direct more TIF funds toward schools and renegotiate banks loans.

"Why can't you reach out to the banks and do something?" one parent asked.

Some school board members took offense to some of the comments reminding parents it's easier said than done.

"I wish folks would sit here once in a while and just be in our shoes and realize we've had to make these difficult decisions," said Jesse Ruiz, CPS Board Vice President.

Byrd-Bennett says its record budget is being driven by pension payments. She and the mayor are counting on spring field for relief. Without that, cuts may be inevitable.

Despite the budget crisis, CPS announced a big effort to reach drop outs. CPS is expanding classroom seats at alternative schools.

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