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CPS Budget Cuts Nothing New at Ravenswood Elementary, Officials Say

 Fundraisers like Ravenswood's adult dodgeball tournament are helping the school pay for an art teacher in the wake of CPS budget cuts.
Fundraisers like Ravenswood's adult dodgeball tournament are helping the school pay for an art teacher in the wake of CPS budget cuts.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

RAVENSWOOD — If the CPS budget cuts at Ravenswood Elementary seem less extreme than those reported by other schools — $128,000 compared with millions at various high schools — that's only because the school's funding has been steadily decreasing for years.

"Every year it's hard. It's become expected. We kind of dread it," said Mary Lubben, community representative and chairwoman of the budget committee for Ravenswood's Local School Council.

The changing demographics of the school's enrollment have led to fewer federal dollars related to the number of low-income students. In 2012, the school faced a $200,000 shortfall.

"Every year there are these shocks to the system," said Greg Janes, parent representative on the council and its former chairman.

In addition to the $128,000, CPS also cut a bilingual teacher and arts teacher from Ravenswood's budget, despite a mandate to provide bilingual services and the school's status as a fine arts magnet school.

Friends of Ravenswood School (FORS), which ramped up its fundraising efforts significantly during the 2012 school year — netting $88,000 — is supplementing the school's budget with a transfer of $65,000 to help finance the arts position, according to a letter from Principal Heather Connolly.

"We can't say enough good things about FORS," Janes said. "They've done a fantastic job."

But there's only so much fundraising and belt-tightening the school can do.

"We can squeeze textbooks, field trips, the copier contract and maintenance supplies," he said. "That piper's going to have to be paid at some point. The school has to run."

The challenge for the council is how to support Ravenswood's priorities — fine arts and small class sizes — amid the "continued craziness" of CPS, Janes said.

"You can't plan" for long-term growth, Janes said. Tackling a multi-million dollar project like computer labs or a replacement of the school's multi-purpose "cafegymatorium" is off the table as long as the school is struggling just to maintain basic resources and staffing levels.

"There's a breaking point for everyone," said Janes, who so far has avoided the "siren song" of the suburbs.

"We love living in the city. We're still here. But there are different decision points parents make," he said.

Lubben, who sent her three children to private school during their elementary years and then to CPS for high school, remains dedicated to making Ravenswood, 4332 N. Paulina St., a viable education option for neighborhood families.

"We're a glass-half-full group," she said. "What are we going to do, give up? We're going to work with what we've got."