Pilsen protesters say 25th Ward schools hit hard by $46M CPS budget freeze

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Protesters say Pilsen schools are among the hardest hit by recent budget cuts by Chicago Public Schools.

CPS announced last week it was freezing $46 million in discretionary funds in response to Governor Bruce Rauner's $215 million cut to the district's schools.

As a result, Benito Juarez High School administrators learned they would lose $613,000.

Officials at Jungman Elementary found out they would lose $98,000.

A group of parents, education advocates, school council and community members gathered outside the high school Monday morning to express their anger and frustration at being denied funding they say the students need. With this latest round of cuts, they say schools in Pilsen's 25th Ward have lost more than $7 million this year alone. Principals are scrambling to rework their spending plans and submit the budgets before the end of Monday. Many parents fear the necessary cutbacks will affect the most vulnerable students.

"My daughter, she has an IEP. She only has a special education teacher twice a week because the school doesn't have money to pay for a full-time special education teacher. How is she supposed to pass her grade? She went from As to Fs. This is not right. And enough is enough," said Lorena Vargas, parent.

"Whittier School had a really great program they were going to implement. There was a curriculum that the students and teachers had worked on. They were going to order new books for it. Those books are not going to be ordered," said Corina Podraza, Pilsen Alliance co-director.

The spending freeze affects non-salary funds. As one parent put it - that means an administrator who budgeted money for an after-school program instead of an assistant principal loses that money for prioritizing a critical need for students instead of administrative help.

"Governor Rauner's devastating mid-year cut left CPS with no choice but to freeze the crucial resources he promised our schools just months ago," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement. "We share the anger and frustration felt by many in our community, and we call on the governor to act on this inequity and provide our students with the fair funding they deserve."

The state says CPS is mismanaging its money and needs to focus on building a balanced budget and pension reform.
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