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Parent Fundraising Comes Through for Walter Payton College Prep

By David Matthews | February 11, 2016 6:32am
 Walter Payton College Prep High School, 1034 N. Wells St.
Walter Payton College Prep High School, 1034 N. Wells St.
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DNAinfo/Justin Breen

NEAR NORTH SIDE — Asking parents to raise $1.1 million was a prescient move for Walter Payton College Prep, which now needs a six-figure donation to stave off a new round of teacher layoffs.

The selective-enrollment high school at 1034 N. Wells St. will primarily look to the Friends of Payton booster group to address its nearly $175,000 budget cut delivered by Chicago Public Schools this week, Principal Tim Devine said Wednesday. The school will also draw from the nearly $33,000 in state funding it has saved, he said.

The mid-year spending cut, which accounts for about 3.3 percent of Payton's total budget, could have paid the salaries for as many as four teachers, Devine told his local school council Wednesday. Though no Payton teachers will be cut this week, Devine bemoaned that he had to turn to parents to save their jobs.

"No [public] school should ever have to fundraise" for what he called "legally required services for kids."

The announcement arrived about two months after Devine announced an "unprecedented" $1.1 million fundraising campaign as the school — one of the most distinguished in the state — braced for this week's budget cuts. Payton cut the equivalent of nearly five full-time employees in July.

Marla Gross, the Friends of Payton president, declined to disclose how much the campaign raised Wednesday, but said parent pledges could cover the $175,000 budget cut handed down Tuesday by CPS.

"We're all exhausted but we're coming out happy," she said.

RELATED: What Do Chicago Public Schools Budget Cuts Mean For Your Child?

CPS is operating at a $1.1 billion deficit and its budget this year included a $480 million hole that CPS chief Forrest Claypool hoped to fill through state funding by the new year. But the money never came, and Claypool said Tuesday that the district had to take action by slashing $120 million, $85 million of which will take effect this school year. Claypool has denied the new cuts this week are an attempt to pressure the Chicago Teachers Union as they negotiate a new contract.

Unlike the comparable Jones College Prep, which will address its budget cut with the nearly $340,000 in unspent state funding it has received based on its number of low-income students, Payton will have to mostly rely on private fundraising. But Devine said Payton's parent support couldn't be measured by a number.

"We're not a collection of dollars and cents, we're a collection of teachers and students," he said.

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