HYDE PARK — Principals at 84 schools were notified this week that their schools would get a cut of $21.5 million set aside to pay for art programs next year — a welcome assist as schools grapple with expected budget cuts and a new mandate that all students have art class.
A new CPS mandate for next year requires more arts and physical education instruction at all of the city’s 681 public schools.
At one of the schools to get a grant, Ray Elementary, the principal and local school council hope the grant will be enough to avoid laying off a technology teacher to meet Chicago Public School’s mandate that all students get 90 minutes of art instruction every week.
“The LSC must vote on how to reallocate the budget funds and the arts grant does not fully fund the newly mandated arts position — Ray will still need to fund 25 percent of this new position,” said Gordon Mayer, chairman of the Ray LSC.
Ray officials estimated the cost of an art teacher, with benefits, at about $80,000.
In November, Mayor Rahm Emanuel reached into the city’s TIF districts to gird the CPS budget with an extra $21.5 million to meet the new mandates.
CPS did not immediately provide a full list of schools receiving arts grants.
The money will be spread out over two years and is allocated partially based on how much arts programming a school may already offer.
At Ray, the last-minute infusion of cash before the May 23 deadline for schools to submit their budgets to CPS means a frantic rejiggering of the accounts.
On Monday, the local school council decided to cut an office clerk position and the technology teacher because it did not yet know whether it would have the cash to fund a second art teacher.
Mayer said the body is hoping the funding will be enough to avoid layoffs and appealed to CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett for more money in a letter Tuesday.
“In order to meet next year's mandate for gym and art we are cutting a technology position and one of two clerks who have been with us for many years and perform vital functions including serving as the school's treasurer — which risks harming our ability to collect other revenues such as school fees,” Mayer says in the letter.