ROGERS PARK — As schools across the city continue to deal with the fallout of $120 million in additional mid-year budget cuts, New Field Elementary School said it will survive — but with only "thin" leeway.
"I think that we planned very well from the beginning of the year, but we can't ignore what's happened in the news," Principal Carlos Patiño said during a meeting at the school Thursday night.
"These are just cuts that keep coming, keep coming, keep coming."
No staff will have to be cut, but about $21,000 was slashed from the math budget, while another $18,000 had to be taken from reading resources, Patiño said.
Those figures account for "at least half" if not more of the total budget for math and reading — a difficult choice made only after consulting two personal mentors, Patiño said.
About $5,000 was cut from an account meant to pay staff who help run after-school programs, which are no longer able to stand without proper funding.
The situation would be far more dire at New Field had his staff not planned ahead diligently at the beginning of the school year, Patiño said, since they anticipated a teacher strike or significant cuts could happen.
The most important thing is that the quality of education students receive in the classroom does not diminish, council members said, to which Patiño assured them it would not.
He agreed with one member who said the reading and math cuts were more "sweet" than "bitter" if it meant teachers could stay.
"Believe me, when we went to these meetings, my first fear was that I'm going to have to tell somebody that they don't have a position," Patiño said. "I did not look forward to giving you this news, or our community this news, but again ... our teachers and staff have been quite frankly wonderful in a very, very difficult climate."
It's not the first time New Field, a top-rated CPS school, has faced heavy hits to its budget before.
Patiño said three years ago, the school suffered a blow to the tune of about $488,000, followed by more than $120,000 in the following years, not including the $46,534 cut most recently.
Other schools, like West Ridge's Clinton Elementary and Decatur Classical School, also anticipated deep cuts and planned ahead.
The district's 2015-16 budget included a $480-million hole that Chicago Public Schools head Forrest Claypool hoped could be plugged through state funding by the new year. But with few signs of movement in Springfield, the schools chief said, he and his central staff had no choice but to take drastic action.
“These painful reductions are not the steps that we want to take, but they are the steps we must take as our cash position becomes tighter every day — especially as the District relies on short-term financing to pay its bills," Claypool said in a written statement Tuesday. "We are doing everything in our power to sustain the gains our students are making in their classrooms.”
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