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North Side Schools Raid Rainy Day Funds to Weather Latest CPS Budget Storm

By Patty Wetli | February 10, 2016 5:39pm
 Protesters backing the Chicago Teachers Union have protested CPS budget cuts.
Protesters backing the Chicago Teachers Union have protested CPS budget cuts.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

LINCOLN SQUARE — After raiding rainy day funds, tapping "Friends of" groups and diverting dollars earmarked for basic supplies, North Side principals managed to avoid layoffs in the wake of the latest round of CPS budget cuts.

Having done so, some warned their school communities that there was little wiggle room in the event of an emergency.

"'Well-positioned' is, of course, a relative term," Ravenswood Principal Nate Manaen said in an email to the school's parents and neighbors.

"We aren't drowning ... but it certainly is very, very wet," Manaen said of his school's $83,000 shortfall. "I want to be clear that any cuts to school budgets are cuts that will adversely affect our students."

District-wide, cuts amounted to $85 million for the current school year, with a 4.87 percent decrease across the board in per pupil funds. For many schools, that loss was partially offset by federal grants and rollover state funds, largely tied to low-income students.

Though Amundsen Principal Anna Pavichevich told her school community that layoffs and programming cuts had been averted thanks to "sound, fiscally responsible budget decisions," she echoed Manaen's caveat: "Every penny lost is one that limits our opportunities to provide optimal services to students."

With a loss of $134,000, or 1.7 percent of its total budget, Amundsen actually fared better than many of its North Side counterparts, which gained fewer state and federal dollars.

Percentage-wise, Northside College Prep was the hardest hit of all CPS schools, losing nearly 3.5 percent of its budget.

Lane Tech College Prep High School was slated to lose in excess of $1 million, but adding in state and federal gains, the blow ended up not being as bad. Cuts still amounted to $543,000, or 2.3 percent, at the district's largest school,

Audubon, Bell, Coonley, Disney II Magnet, Ravenswood and Waters schools all suffered losses exceeding 3 percent, placing them in the top 20 percent of the district in terms of cuts.

In a note posted to Coonley's website, Principal Gregory Zurawski wrote of the school's $144,000 decrease:

"We have prepared for this possibility and have ensured that these cuts will not affect our current classroom structure or create any position cuts. However, these cuts will impact Coonley greatly by diverting funds that would have been used for programming and technology for our students. If it were not for the looming uncertainty that has clouded this school year, these funds would been expended in the fall so that our children could have fully benefited from these resources."

Greg Foster-Rice, a member of Waters' Local School Council, shared via Facebook that the school had scraped "every last line of remaining funds" to save staff positions.

"We are now working on how to not end up with absolutely zero in our accounts, which would mean shortages in supplies and an inability to provide for unexpected costs," Foster-Rice wrote. "You never want to allocate every last penny, but we will come close."

Waters Principal Titia Crespo posted a note to the school's website, stating: "Students are the priority and we do not want to disrupt their learning mid-year."

But the diversion of funds earmarked for materials and supplies to make up for a new $108,000 shortfall would "critically impact Waters," she said.

"I urge all of you to find ways to encourage a proactive dialogue that addresses the state of public education funding within CPS," Crespo said.

Heather Yutzy, principal at Belding Elementary, sent a note to the school's LSC members saying Belding had enough in "reserve" to survive $82,000 in cuts.

"The bad news is that these budget cuts come in an already 'lean' budget year, and money will be tight for the end of the year," Yutzy wrote. "We will have far fewer funds for instructional materials, supplies, professional development, auditorium seats, etc."

Still Yutzy urged: "Let's keep our focus on the children at Belding, making sure that their experience is filled with joy and meaningful learning."

Lincoln Square, North Center, Ravenswood: Cuts by school

Albany Park, Irving Park, North Park, North Mayfair: Cuts by school


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