LAKEVIEW — Facing the worst budget cuts in at least a decade, a group of North Side principals are taking action and rallying support as the "doomsday" clock ticks away.
A forum Monday focusing on equitable state funding for Chicago Public Schools will feature principals from five schools who will demonstrate how the proposed 26 percent cuts to school funding will impact students.
Chicago Public Schools officials warned principals Tuesday to expect "devastating" classroom impacts amid the "financial tsunami" of the state budget crisis. School budgets could be slashed by up to 30 percent, renewing calls for equitable state funding for Chicago schools.
The school leaders are urging parents and community members to join in efforts to compel state legislators to find a solution and pass a state budget by May 31. The forum will explain how to contact state officials and participate in a rally in Springfield on May 26.
"We don't want finger pointing about why we're at this point; we want to galvanize people to really do something," said Mira Weber, principal of Agassiz Elementary School. "We want it to be focused on positive steps forward."
Participating schools include Agassiz, Hawthorne, Hamilton and Mayer elementary schools and Lake View High School. Principals from each will explain how the cuts will impact schools, from increasing class sizes to upward of 40 students and combining grade levels as a result of personnel cuts.
"If we can be very specific and show them what a school could look like, it'll mean more once they can visualize how it impacts their family," Weber said.
The forum will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at Agassiz, 2851 N. Seminary Ave.
In Lakeview, the eight elementary schools and one high school stand to lose $10.6 million in student-based budgeting, based on an analysis from the CPS Apples to Apples blog.
Chicago Public Schools will lose millions in student-based funding as part of state budget slashes to Chicago Public Schools, the district warned. Shown here is Blaine fifth-grader Caroline Hart (c.). [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
That would be almost 10 times the $1.37 million in mid-year cuts Lakeview schools faced in February. Summer cuts last year also pale in comparison as well, when Burley school lost the most with a 6 percent budget cut of $171,318.
Instead, principals expect to lose millions.
Weber said principals avoid cutting personnel as much as possible, chipping away at online learning resources, recess programs, after-school programs and general supplies.
An $800,000 cut would amount to about five to seven teaching positions, she said. Such a severe hit could result in measures as drastic as combining grade levels for a single teacher or increasing class sizes to 40 students or more.
"I know a lot of people are really quick to say we're crying wolf, but it's a different feeling this time," Weber said. "Percentage-wise, it's never compared to this.
"We need to have something done by May 31, or our reality is 'doomsday,' as they've termed it," she said.
The district is reacting to the unprecedented cuts with vigor, as well, involving principals and communities much sooner than normally expected, Weber said.
"The outreach they're doing is something that has never happened at this scale, and I think those things speak to the gravity of the situation," she said. "Anyone would be happy to say it is an overreaction, but it just is not."
It's not the first time North Side principals have banded together for the sake of their schools. In September, a cluster of administrators fired back at CPS, demanding more time to appeal proposed cuts to special education.
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