CPS Latino Advisory Committee members resign in protest of budget cuts

ByLeah Hope and Laura Podesta WLS logo
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
CPS budget cuts cause Latino Advisory Commitee reisgnations
15 members of the Chicago Public Schools Latino Advisory Committee resigned because they said cuts from school budgets disproportionately effect Hispanic students.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- All members of the Chicago Public Schools Latino Advisory Committee submitted letters of resignation Wednesday after the Chicago Board of Education met and passed an amended budget that they disproportionately affects Hispanic students.

"CPS will continue to work with the community on priorities that affect Hispanic children and families and we are committed to ensuring that students of all backgrounds are treated with respect, as well as feel safe and welcome in schools. We appreciate the service of members of the Latino Advisory Council," a Chicago Public Schoolsspokesperson said

After forced furlough days and freezing principals' discretionary spending, the school district still has more to cut to balance the budget for this year. But some sad the budget is being balanced unfairly on Latino students.

"We see this as not just an assault on Latino students, neighborhoods and families, but we see this as a continuation of cuts in the African American community and now cuts in the Latino community," said Jose Rico, Latino Advisory Committee.

"You're not only messing with my education, but you're messing with my 9-year-old nephew's education, my best friend's education, my community and my family's education," said Jennifer Nava, a CPS student, through tears.

"During trying times it is especially important for CPS to reach out to its constituencies, and Hispanics are CPS's largest constituency, to discuss difficult decisions that need to be made," said Jesse Ruiz during the meeting. He said CPS did not reach out to the Latino Advisory Committee about the planned cuts.

The board president and CEO acknowledged the disparity and financial challenges for the school system.

"They are bad choices, and I don't want you to think we don't understand that," said board president Frank Clark.

"The governor backed us into a corner and there is no good solution," said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

Rauner's spokesperson issued a statement late Wednesday after the board approved the budget.

"The Rauner Administration strongly condemns cuts implemented by the Chicago Public School District, which were caused by decades of fiscal mismanagement, and disproportionately affected low income students," the statement said in part.

Chicago Public Schools is considering a variety of ways to close the operating budget gap. The board's budget is $5.4 billion in total. One would be shortening the school year. CPS can cut the school year by four days without being docked its share of state funding.

Earlier this month, Chicago Public Schools announced a freeze of $46 million in non-personnel funds at schools.

This is the third version of the operating budget CPS has attempted to balance. The previous one included $215 million the board was hoping to get from the state, but Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation providing that funding because lawmakers did not pass pension reform.

CPS has until June 30 to make up a shortfall of $111 million. The district has also filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging the state's funding formula creates separate and unequal systems. There is also an appeals process for schools that feel the cuts disproportionately affect their students.

Nava, who recently graduated from Brighton Park Middle School, said she remembers all the cuts she endured last year.

"Our library stopped being used our music program was cut; and an 8th grade teacher that was very important to me, who was like a father figure to me, was cut," Nava said.

In addition to the resignations, there have been other forms of protest, like some folks staking outside Benito Juarez. That school is losing $600,000 with this proposed budget plan.