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Drummond Montessori Refuses to Pass CPS Budget By Deadline

 Drummond's LSC disputes the projected enrollment numbers CPS used to create the budget.
Drummond Montessori Refuses to Pass CPS Budget
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BUCKTOWN — Parents and officials at a Bucktown Montessori school failed to pass a budget this week, saying that in order to do so, they need Chicago Public Schools to answer questions about enrollment numbers.

CPS expects Thomas Drummond Montessori School to have an enrollment of 347 in 2015, less than the school's current enrollment of 349 students, according to Jonathan Goldman, Drummond's Local School Council chairman.

With a lengthy waitlist of more than 1,000 kids, Drummond expects to have nine more students than CPS' projection at a total of 356, according Goldman.

"The numbers didn't seem to make sense," Goldman said.

Because of CPS' per-pupil funding formula, which it began using last year to calculate school budgets, the difference of those nine students could amount to thousands of dollars, according to the LSC.

"We're not going to let $42,000 walk away," said Melissa Sterne, a parent member of the group. 

The LSC met twice this week at the school, 1845 W. Cortland St., and determined that they did not have enough information to make a decision regarding the budget, Goldman said. On Wednesday, each member agreed to refuse the budget as it stands.

"We really can't prioritize where the money goes until we find out how much we have," Goldman said.

Goldman said he received an update Thursday from CPS that assured him that if it turns out there are more students enrolled at the school than CPS projected, the school will receive that money back in September.

He expects the LSC will have to meet next week and pass the budget after the deadline.

According to CPS spokesman Joel Hood, actual school funding is tied to the enrollment calculated on 10th day of school. School budgets are then adjusted.

A year ago, CPS closed 50 schools and slashed budgets for schools all over the city in the wake of what CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said was a $1 billion deficit. It was up to the schools to decide which teachers got the axe and figure out how supplies like toilet paper would be paid for.

For Drummond, one of just three Montessori schools in the city, that meant laying off the school's only Spanish teacher and a full-time teacher's assistant. Three library, writing and music instructors were reduced from full to part-time, though the school was able to restore the positions using money donated by parents.

Drummond's LSC voted that year to approve a budget for the 2014 year of $3,199,452, or $224,481 short of what it would have needed to prevent the layoffs, Goldman had said.

This year, because CPS is mandating that all elementary schools provide 1½ hours of art and gym instruction per week for each student, Drummond has to upgrade a part-time PE teacher to a full-time position, Goldman said.

Drummond's proposed budget for 2015 is $3,388,767. While it's more than last year's cash, it still amounts to a shortfall of about $185,000 because of the cost of teacher raises and the price of uprading that PE position, according to Goldman.

Though Mayor Rahm Emanuel used some of the city's tax-increment financing funding to help pay for the gym mandate, grants to fund PE teachers were only available to high schools, according to Hood.

While some of the deficit might be made up by the school's annual fundraising effort, Goldman estimates that they'll still likely have to make a staff cut.

Even if the school receives more money come September, Goldman expects the school will have to cut a part-time position.

Adding to the trouble is that Drummond still doesn't have a principal. The school is holding a candidate forum next week to move the selection process forward and has a fill-in principal in the meantime.

Last Friday, Goldman asked for an extension on the budget deadline and let CPS know of the projected enrollment discrepancies, and the extension was denied, he said.

"This is incredibly frustrating, because it's just continued cuts year after year," he said.

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