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Portage Park Elementary School Budget Slashed By $755K

 Portage Park Elementary School
Portage Park Elementary School
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

PORTAGE PARK — Portage Park Elementary School faces the biggest budget cut of any Far Northwest Side school, with Chicago Public Schools officials announcing Monday that the school would lose approximately $755,000.

Portage Park Elementary School is one of 416 Chicago schools to see their budgets cut for a total of $99.5 million, officials said.

Ted Cox breaks down CPS' cuts and how the CTU is responding:

Portage Park Elementary Local School Council chairwoman Victoria Benson said the cuts were "discouraging," especially coming three years after the school saw its budget slashed by $900,000.

"I feel bad for the kids, I really do," Benson said, adding that the cuts will almost certainly mean bigger class sizes at the school at 5330 W. Berteau Ave. "It is setting them up for failure."

Other Far Northwest Side elementary schools facing significant budget cuts include:

Beaubien Elementary School in Jefferson Park: $305,000
Hitch Elementary School in Gladstone Park: $282,000
Dever Elementary School in Dunning: $228,000

"It sends a message to parents that this district does not care about their kids," Benson said, adding that she was speaking as parent, and not on behalf of the councilq. "It is a slap in the face. It is crazy."

The Portage Park Elementary School Local School Council will meet Friday to discuss the budget, and is scheduled to approve the budget Tuesday, Benson said.

"They will be packed in there like sardines," Benson said. "It is a guaranteed disaster."

However, two Far Northwest Side schools will see significant budget increases, officials said.

Wildwood Elementary School in Edgebrook will see its budget increase by $257,000 because its enrollment will increase by 50 students. A new annex for the school is scheduled to open in September, officials said.

In addition, Edison Park Elementary School will see its budget rise by $235,000 to accommodate 38 new students. However, school officials and parents last year told district officials the school was severely overcrowded and desperately need an annex.

Taft High School, the most overcrowded high school in the city, will see its budget decrease by $150,000 — even though 67 new students are projected to attend the Norwood Park school.

Taft will see its "supplemental funds" used outside the classroom cut by $476,000, even though its "core instruction funds" will increase by $325,000, district officials said.

Taft Principal Mark Grishaber said Monday the budget would be "OK," and deep cuts would not be needed to keep the school out of the red.

However, other Northwest Side high schools were not so lucky.

Foreman High School in Cragin will lose $962,000 this year — a nearly 9.4 percent budget cut. Enrollment is projected to decline by 76 students, officials said.

Schurz High School in Old Irving Park will lose $971,000 — a 6 percent cut. Enrollment at Schurz is expected to drop by 186 students, officials said.

"Money follows the students," CPS Chief Financial Officer Ginger Ostro said.

CPS enrollment for the coming school year is 372,275, down about 1 percent from last year, officials said

Basic student-based budgeting would remain level at $4,390 a student for grades 4-8, with $4,697 for students in kindergarten through third grade and $5,444 a pupil in high schools.

During the last two years, schools where enrollment did not meet projections were not penalized with budget cuts, but that is no longer possible with CPS facing more than $100 million in new state cuts in funding, as well as the state dropping a $50 million pension payment, officials said.

The district still faces a projected $1.1 billion budget deficit with a balanced budget due at the end of August, officials said.

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