Apr 28, 2022 - News

Protesters question budget cuts in Chicago schools

Protesters
Community members and teachers protest school budget cuts in front of CPS headquarters before Wednesday's Board of Education meeting. Screenshot from CTU livestream.

Chicago Public Schools parents, Chicago Teachers Union members and lawmakers are protesting drastic budget cuts to schools at a time when CPS has more than a billion dollars in unspent federal COVID aid.

Why it matters: Schools like Little Village's Emiliano Zapata Academy, where COVID struck hard, hoped the massive COVID aid package might shield them from big rollbacks.

  • Instead, Zapata supporters say they face nearly $900,000 in cuts.

What they're saying: "We're not just talking about [losing] dollars and cents," state Sen. Celina Villanueva said at a Tuesday press conference at Zapata. "We are talking about educators, support staff and community members that form part of the education and development of our students."

The other side: CPS officials say the budget reductions are driven by a 10% enrollment decline at Zapata, and that some cuts have already been offset by the district through recent adjustments.

The latest: During Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez urged schools to tell district officials if their budgets can't cover requirements like "reasonable class size, intervention teachers and access to the arts."

  • "I've been proud that we've been making adjustments to schools when we've seen that they are needed," he said.

Bigger picture: CPS officials admit they have been slow to use the federal COVID dough, but spokesperson Mary Ann Fergus says they "have spent millions" on things like additional teachers and classroom air filters.

  • She says they also plan "$290 million of new investments."

What's next: The full CPS budget is expected in June.

More school news: Five CPS schools (yep, the ones you'd think) landed on a list of the nation's top 100 high schools.

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