EDISON PARK — Chicago Public Schools officials Tuesday warned principals to expect budget cuts of about 26 percent as city leaders continue to push state lawmakers to change the way schools are funded and close CPS' $1 billion budget deficit.
A principal who attended the meeting but was not authorized to speak to the news media said the cuts would be catastrophic for his Far Northwest Side school and would force him to lay off dozens of teachers and increase class sizes to more than 50 students.
"There is no way we could operate under this budget," the principal said. "It is just ridiculous. We are already on bare bones."
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said officials have been meeting with principals as they develop school budgets for next year because implementing budget cuts of this size "will take more preparation than ever before."
Bittner said CPS officials understood that there would be no way to avoid "higher class sizes, loss of enrichment activities and layoffs of teachers and support staff" because of the size of the crisis, which officials called a "financial tsunami."
"Classroom impacts will be devastating," CPS said.
The preliminary budgets given to principals Tuesday reduce the amount of money CPS gives each school for each student by 39 percent. Because CPS plans to "redeploy grant dollars for poverty and other needs," schools will suffer cuts ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent, officials said.
Most schools will see cuts of about 26 percent, officials said.
The meetings with principals are an effort by district officials to develop "mitigation strategies in an attempt to free as many resources as possible for reinvestment in classrooms," officials said.
For weeks, CPS officials have been urging parents to contact state legislators and demand that they change the way Illinois' schools are funded. A law that would provide millions of dollars more for CPS passed the state Senate but faces an uncertain future in a politically gridlocked House of Representatives.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly haven't been able to agree on a budget, which was supposed to be approved more than 10 months ago.
Under state law, CPS must adopt a balanced budget by the end of August.
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