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11 CPS Principals Say 'We're Not Crying Wolf' On Budget Crisis

By Linze Rice | May 12, 2016 6:35am
 Principals from 11 schools across the North Side gathered to urge parents to call legislators to support a bill that would change the way school funding in Illinois was distributed.
Education Town Hall
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EDGEWATER — Eleven principals across the North Side united for a town hall at Senn High School moderated by Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) Wednesday to warn the community they're "not crying wolf" when it comes to Illinois' education funding crisis.

"Lucas museum? Not a priority," Osterman said. "Critical funding for our children's future? That's a priority."

Among those taking questions from the handful of residents who showed to the meeting were Senn Principal Mary Beck, Anna Pavichevich of Amundsen High School and Laura LeMone of Von Steuben High School.

Elementary schools were represented by Maquline King of Courtenay Elementary School, Susan Kukielka of Decatur Classical School, Susan Brandt of Goudy Elementary School, Daniel Gomez of Hayt Elementary School, Jenn Farrell of McCutcheon Elementary School, Lorianne Zaimi of Peirce Elementary School and Salvatore Cannella of Swift Elementary School.

Collectively, the group, along with Osterman, repeatedly urged the crowd to contact their local legislators and tell them to support legislation being considered by the state House of Representatives.

In part, the bill changes the formula for how school districts receive money, putting more emphasis on actual need according to the particular students being served.

The current formula used by the state and CPS doesn't do that, the group said.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) backed principals who said serious changes needed to come to both Springfield and Chicago. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

While parent fundraising, budget finagling and cuts inside and outside the classroom have kept CPS schools‚ and other struggling districts around the state, afloat so far, "the writing is already on the walls," Cannella said.

"I just want to emphasize how much we're not crying wolf right now," Pavichevich said.

Pavichevich said she had recently been part of a focus group with Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool that showed a sample projection of next year's CPS budget.

"I went to this meeting with great trepidation expecting the worst, and what I found at that meeting was much worse than I expected," Pavichevich said. "I walked out not feeling trepidation anymore, but devastated."

Senn Principal Mary Beck said no amount of fundraising from families, nor raising taxes, is the answers to the state's education crisis. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

The principals said they might be "acting professional" but they're "upset" at the ongoing budget impasse, and expressed worry over how additional cuts would "devastate" their schools.

Brandt said with more cuts, Goudy would lose all of its enrichment programs — including an engineering course, arts, library resources and staff, class trips and more.

"Which one of those programs do I say is least important, and how will a parent receive that?" King said. "We have a very diverse population [by] ethnicity, socioeconomic status, so that's what we're building our base on: being able to teach anyone who walks through the door."

"But what goes? Because something will have to go."

A Goudy Elementary School graduate, now a Boston University student, asked how she could help aside from supporting state legislation changing the education funding formula. CPS official Phil Salemi looks on. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Many principals expressed their gratitude for parents, partnerships and volunteers who have helped to make even the "bare minimums" met at schools, but acknowledged no amount of fundraising, or tax increases, could solve the state budget problem at hand.

"Parents are so totally invested in the school system ... how much more can we ask of them?" Kukielka said. "They keep giving and giving, just for regular things that our children deserve."

Ald. Harry Osterman's son, also named Harry, asked principals how they think their schools would look different under more equitable funding. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

The principals and Osterman agreed that passing the pending state legislation was essential for equitable funding, but added CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union need to fix a tepid relationship that sends staff and families mixed messages and misinformation.

"There should not be dueling press conferences," Osterman said.

Ultimately, the principals asked for a robust phone and letter-writing campaign to support the state legislation in a literal effort to overwhelm legislators.

But without the full city's help, they said, the fallout would fall on the shoulders of all Chicagoans and Illinois, especially children.

"You're looking at changing a culture where relationship building is at the forefront of our work, and having that historical relationship with families," Zaimi said.

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