LINCOLN PARK — The effect of Chicago Public Schools' budget cuts hit home at Lincoln Park High School Wednesday night when parents learned the school will be forced to cut $900,000 from its budget for the 2013-2014 school year.
The reason for the cuts is that for the first time CPS will be allotting funds to the schools on a per-student basis.
In previous years, principals received per-position, not per-student, funding from the district's Central Office based on what CPS says was "an outdated formula that dictated specific numbers and types of positions to fill within their schools." Teacher salaries were irrelevant to the individual schools but now they will be responsible for them in their budgets.
The district says that the new approach will give principals more flexibility.
Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard St., will receive $1.06 million less in CPS and state funding than it did for the the 2012-2013 year, according to a document presented by principal Michael Boraz.
The school still has $140,000 in rollover funds that will help ease the cuts for the 2013-2014 school year, but Boraz and the local school council have less than two weeks to cut $920,000 from the budget.
CPS handed over budgetary power to school principals for the first time under the new plan, forcing principals to decide where the cuts should be made.
"When you are going into a new school year and our project for enrollment for next year is up 21 students and you have less money, the concept of flexibility is not exactly an easy concept to get your mind around," Boraz said at a special budget meeting at the high school.
CPS is allocating $5,029 per student to each high school in the district for the 2013-2014 school year. Under the old system, CPS provided teachers based on a formula that took into account overall school population among other factors.
Boraz heard of the budget cuts in the first week of June during a meeting with CPS officials.
Parents on the local school council were shocked when they heard of the cuts.
Five LSC members and Boraz began brainstorming how to fix the situation as details of what could be cut spilled out.
It is likely teachers will lose their jobs. Security could drop as a guard or two might be let go. Classes could be cut, they say.
"Where is the outrage in our community about this?" said Kathy Berghoff, the parent chair of the local school council.
"I had no idea these kind of numbers would come out." said Erica Wax, a member of the council.
Boraz said the news of the cuts surprised him.
"When I got my paper last week I had a similar reaction," he told members of the Lincoln Park High School LSC Wednesday night. "Unless there's some kind of legislative surprises, I don't expect any change."
Boraz said he is considering blocking freshman from taking an 8th class, as about 65 percent of them do.
Another possibility is creating a senior "seminar/advisory" with 80 to 100 students per class as a cost-cutting measure. The class would take the place of electives that are not needed for graduation, meaning those teachers would lose their jobs.
"Five years ago you called downtown [school officials] and they'd say, 'How many more [teachers] do you need?'" Boraz said. "You'd say I need six and they'd say OK you can have five. You used to be able to call down to the budget [office] and say I need some help and that's not happening anymore."
The high school is also looking at "non salary" positions to cut, which could save the school about $200,000 if each is let go.
Those positions include librarians, school clerks, six school counselors, five security guards, a tech coordinator and others.
Parents cried foul, claiming those electives include math classes and other courses that many colleges look for in applicants.
"If we don't do those flexible things, we have to close positions," Boraz said.
Boraz said he has spoken with principals of multiple other CPS high schools with smaller student populations who are dealing with an even greater budget deficit, but would not identify them.
Teachers at the school have been meeting with Boraz and his assistant principals this week to discuss possible ways to trim the budget.
CPS has cut central-office directed spending by nearly $600 million since 2011, according to a statement released on June 5 announcing the new budgetary guidelines. The district plans on identifying additional reductions before finalizing the budget this summer, according to the statement.
“I know that Student Based Budgeting will give our school leaders unprecedented control over their budget, which will allow them to better influence outcomes at their schools and thus allow CPS to better hold them more accountable for results," said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a news release.
She said the difficult choices are needed to close a $1 billion deficit. The deficit "was caused in part by flat or declining revenues and a $400 million increase in annual pension payments," according to CPS.
The latest budget cuts come less than a month after the Board of Education voted to close 50 schools.
That move was touted as saving the district $43 million annually in operating spending, and $437 over 10 years.