PORTAGE PARK — Portage Park Elementary School will be able to pay for substitute teachers after the latest round of budget cuts was delayed by school officials, Local School Council Chairwoman Victoria "Tori" Benson said.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said Monday that CPS would give schools a one-year reprieve on the next round of enrollment-based budget cuts in an effort to ensure a smooth transition to the district's new budget system, which distributes money to schools based on the number of students.
"I'm relieved," Benson said.
The far Northwest Side school at 5330 W. Berteau Ave. was on the verge of losing nearly $62,000 — on top of the between $800,000 and $900,000 that Chicago Public Schools officials cut from its budget earlier this year.
There are 1,032 students at Portage Park, 26 students fewer than the school had been expected to have, according to final enrollment data released Tuesday by Chicago Public Schools officials.
District officials tout the new student-based budgeting system as more transparent and equitable.
Portage Park officials had planned to eliminate the budget to pay substitutes, instead asking other teachers to cover the classes of absent colleagues. In addition, the school put off a plan to replace outdated math and science textbooks because of the looming budget cut, Benson said.
"I'm happy, don't get me wrong," Benson said. "But they already took $800,000 from us. I don't know why this letter would make me happy."
The district seems to be attempting a "Jedi-mind trick" to persuade parents that school officials are doing schools a favor, Benson said.
"But [CPS] doesn't realize there is no money for textbooks," Benson said. "I'm still discouraged. We have to choose between teachers and textbooks, and the two go together."
Benson, who volunteers at the school twice a week on her lunch break, said she's worried about next year's budget, which could be cut another $150,000 if the school's enrollment continues to decline. That would mean the loss of another teacher, Benson said.
Ten families have withdrawn their children from Portage Park in the last two weeks, Benson said. Two are now attending selective-enrollment schools, while the others moved to the suburbs, she added.
"With the budget cuts and the crime, who can blame them?" Benson asked.