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Chicago Public Schools Budget Spells Cuts for Neighborhood Schools, A Boost For Charters

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Jul 13, 2015 9:05PM

The new Chicago Public Schools' budget includes nearly $60 million in cuts to schools across the district, while charter schools and other charter-like programs are slated to receive a $30 million boost.

Public schools Chief Financial Officer Ginger Ostro announced the details in a conference call with reporters Monday. By the numbers, about 238 schools are slated to see their funding increased, while 416 will face cuts. "Money follows the students," Ostro said on the call, as reported by DNAinfo.

Overall enrollment at neighborhood schools is projected to drop by about 4,000 this year, according to the Sun-Times, while charter school and contract school enrollment is likely to increase by about 3,000.

Similar to past years, schools are receiving their budgets based on the number of students who have enrolled there, from $4,390 to $5,444 per student, depending on grade level.

Schools officials said in the past they've tried to protect neighborhood schools from drastic cuts caused by student enrollment fluctuations, but that wasn't possible this year, with CPS facing $100 million in state budget cuts and the state's unpaid $50 million pension debts.

The schools system has budgeted for $500 million to come from the state once the General Assembly finishes its pension reform dealings, but CPS Chief Executive Officer Jesse Ruiz told reporters the money will have to be borrowed if it doesn't come.

"We're gonna continue to work with Springfield," Ruiz said, according to DNAinfo. "I'm gonna keep banging that drum."

Despite the cuts, officials said their goal overall was to impact the classrooms as little as possible by avoiding cuts to teachers' salaries. The Chicago Teachers Union is under contract negotiations with CPS. If teachers are forced to pick up their own pension contributions, Ruiz told reporters, they would face a seven percent cut in their current take-home pay rates.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters Monday that he has told lawmakers the budget cuts were "unacceptable, unconscionable," and up to Springfield to remedy, according to the Sun-Times. Emanuel laid the blame on the decade and a half during which CPS barely paid into the teachers pension fund, but also said Springfield must make the $200 million pension payment it owes.

Emanuel promised there would be no increases in class size this year, but he also warned that these cuts could be felt in other ways down the line, when student performance is being measured on state tests.

“Let me be clear: School is gonna start on time. We will not be increasing class size. But we’re getting to a point where you cannot balance the needs and continue to invest in the educational advancements and gains we’re making in high school graduation, test scores [and] attendance and continue to also meet all of the financial obligations.”