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CPS Budget Cuts to Slam Some South Side Schools, Principals Say

By Casey Cora | July 10, 2013 7:09am
 Representatives from Bridgeport's Armour Elementary School say they're preparing to cut six jobs at the school under the Chicago Public Schools' new "per-pupil" budgeting formula.
Representatives from Bridgeport's Armour Elementary School say they're preparing to cut six jobs at the school under the Chicago Public Schools' new "per-pupil" budgeting formula.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll has said the district's new "per-pupil" budgeting formula would result in "winner and losers," with some schools getting more money and some receiving less by the time the first bell rings next school year.

Now, many parents and principals from schools in Bridgeport, McKinley Park and Chinatown fear they'll be sitting squarely in the losers' camp.

For the first time, CPS is allotting funds to the schools on a per-student basis. In previous years, money was allocated based on the number of employees — not per-student — which school officials have said was "an outdated formula that dictated specific numbers and types of positions to fill within schools.”

Here’s how the new formula shakes out: $4,429 per student in grades K-3, $4,140 per student in grades 4-8, and $5,029 per student in high school.

CPS spokesman Dave Miranda said the per-pupil portion is only a half of a school's total budget. The other part comes from state funds and programs like Title I, English Language Learners (ELL), Magnet, International Baccalaureate, Bilingual and STEM.

While CPS officials have said the cuts would be kept out of the classroom, interviews with local school councils, teachers and principals suggest deep cuts across the area's elementary schools, with principals now facing tough choices about how to pay for staff and operations within their buildings.

Officials at Bridgeport's Armour Elementary School, for example, are mulling cuts to six jobs: four teacher's assistants, plus one administrative clerk and one kitchen staffer. Armour is housed to two different buildings.

"It's going to be very difficult to run one school without anybody in the front office," said Catherine Jurich, president of the school's parent advisory council.

At Haines Elementary in Chinatown, three jobs will likely get axed. Two will likely be teacher's assistants working in the school's bilingual program, where about a third of the school's predominantly Asian-American students learn in Chinese and English, local school council chairwoman June Coutre said.

At McKinley Park's Evergreen Academy Middle School, Principal Marian Strok said she was unsure how the estimated $62,000 in budget cuts would affect the school, but said she'd likely have to lose a teaching job affiliated with an art or music program.

"There will also be a lot of cuts made on what we can buy, student supplies and things like that. But I'm glad I'm not is an as bad shape as all of my colleagues," Strok said.

McClellan Elementary in Bridgeport is set to lose about about $150,000, Principal Joseph Shoffner said. That's on top of money lost in a newly announced plan by CPS that takes two-thirds of the revenue raised from the dozens of public schools that leased part of their buildings to cellular companies for cell towers.

Previously, all of the money had gone to the schools where the towers were placed. Now, schools with the towers keep one-third and the remainder, about $2.8 million according to the Sun-Times, will be split among all of the city's schools.

The Chicago Board of Education is expected to finalize the overall CPS 2014 budget at its August meeting.

Meanwhile, the only thing certain inside the schools seems to be looming uncertainty about the future.

"I don’t think most people get what’s happening" Shoffner said.

Here's a breakdown of those estimated cuts, based on interviews with local school council members, teachers and principals. Officials at Ward Elementary, Healy Elementary and Greene Elementary did not return calls seeking comment.

Mark Sheridan Math & Science Academy, 533 W. 27th St.

Estimated cuts: $516,329

McClellan Elementary, 3527 S. Wallace Ave.

Estimated 2013 cuts: $150,000

Haines Elementary, 247 W. 23rd Place

Estimated cuts: $300,000

Holden Elementary, 1104 W. 31st St.

Estimated cuts: $150,000

Graham Elementary, 4436 S. Union Ave.

Estimated cuts: $300,000

Evergreen Academy Middle School, 3537 S. Paulina St.

Estimated cuts: $62,000

Armour School, 911 W. 32nd St.

Estimated cuts: $415,000