LAKEVIEW — Blaine Elementary's local school council once again rejected its budget despite a $100,000 additional grant from CPS.
The money, the board unanimously voted, still does not sufficiently make up for the $600,000 shortfall from CPS's per-pupil funding. And Blaine, which has spearheaded a coalition of LSCs against school cuts, did not want to take more money unless it came with "an honest and transparent" conversation with the system — something the grant lacked, they said.
"Not much has changed since we didn't accept the first budget," said LSC chair and parent rep Tony Porfirio. "I don't see any reason to change. We've been given nothing."
Over the weekend, CPS gave out grants between $35,000 and $100,000 to 135 schools, said the group Common Sense: Coalition of LSCs for Fair Funding. Some principals received calls from network chiefs asking for immediate LSC approval, and some said the conversation "felt coercive," Common Sense said.
Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere said he did not feel coerced when Ravenswood-Ridge Chief Craig Benes called him over the weekend, but Benes did not explain the source of the money. The two privately discussed potential ways to keep programs that LaRaviere says he would be forced to lose with cuts, including music, art and five other positions.
But LaRaviere made clear that programs could only stay with "profoundly unacceptable sacrifices" in other areas. And though the principal had previously abstained in the vote to reject the budget, he voted "no" with a grim face on Wednesday night.
The system has said per-pupil funding provides flexibility and fairness, but that's not what he sees, he said. He has "never had less autonomy," and the money is "completely inadequate" — even if Blaine is getting a little bit more than other schools, he said.
"There is not going to be a special allotment for Blaine unless there’s an allotment for everyone," LaRaviere said. "That is the only way we can make sure CPS gets us what we need.
The school has been adamant about taking a stand for system-wide problems and quick to take action. In the two weeks after the first budget rejection, Blaine LSC member Kate Schott Bolduc organized 55 local school councils suffering similar problems.
Despite the strong stance and confident calls for action, the board admitted to sending "panicky emails" to each other about plan B budget scenarios amidst unchartered territory. CPS will not release final budgets until the end of the month.
Blaine's students are financially better off than most in CPS, with less than 15 percent low-income and an active parent fundraising group. But the board did not want to consider private funding as an option even though it has been internally discussed, they said.
As the meeting came to a close, parent Erica Salem said she was proud of the LSC but begged for the school not to ask her for more money. With the amount of taxes she's paying and previous contributions to the school, she said, she might as well move to suburban Wilmette.
"We can't do this anymore," she said. "I can't accept it. I don't have the money to do it."
Blaine's budget rejection is one of a number of LSC push-backs against CPS administration occurring around the city.