THE LOOP — After a tumultuous school year that culminated in the Chicago Board of Education's vote to close dozens of schools, demonstrators took to the Chicago Public Schools headquarters during a rainy Wednesday morning to protest deep budget cuts.
Protesters stood in the rain chanting, "Education is a right. That is why we fight!"
Kristine Mayle, financial secretary for the Chicago Teachers Union, said the school system has other options for fixing its financial crisis.
"They don't need to cut from our schools," Mayle said. "Rahm [Emanuel} keeps talking about hard choices. The real hard choice for him is to go back to his rich friends and ask them to pay their taxes. That's what will solve this."
The protests come ahead of Wednesday's board meeting, the first since a May vote that shuttered 50 of the district's schools.
Mayle called the board "tone deaf" and maintained that while protesters still object to the school closings, which will affect 100 or so schools in one way or another next year, the severe budget cuts will affect every school.
"I can't believe what's going on with education in this city," said Jodi Bonadurer, a mother of two students at Whitney Young Magnet High School.
One of the highest-performing high schools in the state, Whitney Young is dealing with nearly $1 million in budget cuts. The principal is asking students who plan to take a seventh period class to pay $500 to help plug that hole.
"It's not just Whitney Young. It's schools all over the city," Bonadurer said. "I don't think the people who are responsible for the budget cuts have any idea how it will affect the people in the schools."
"I warned everybody," Emanuel said. "If we don't reform our pensions, there are going to be some very difficult choices to be made."
But demonstrators accuse the city of misplaced priorities, most notably slamming a plan to provide $55 million in TIF funds for an arena that would be home to DePaul University's basketball program.