Each school is sending a busload of about 40 students to the state capitol to speak out against the cuts that are expected to slash the spending by Chicago Public Schools by up to 30 percent, according to the predictions of the Illinois' largest school district.
Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) advocated for the trip Wednesday as part of a civics lesson for the two public high schools in the 19th Ward. He and Forrest Claypool, the chief executive officer for CPS, were the featured speakers at a rally held at Mount Greenwood Elementary School.
"If 100 students came from every ward in the city, that would be 5,000 students in Springfield," O'Shea said Friday.
He and Claypool asked parents and others concerned about the looming cuts to make their way downstate Thursday as well to speak out against the budget cuts as well as the current school funding system they claim is inequitable.
Claypool told the crowd in Mount Greenwood that public school students in Chicago receive 69 cents in state funding compared to every dollar spent on students elsewhere. And that leveling the playing field would add more than $500 million to the CPS coffers.
Such reforms would significantly ease the financial burden of the school system facing a $1 billion budget deficit. But there's no guarantee lawmakers will approve the changes, thus CPS administrators are warning school principals to brace for massive cuts.
Ten principals from area schools attended the rally Thursday and referred to the cuts as "catastrophic." Sean McNichols, principal at Clissold Elementary School in Morgan Park, said the proposed budget has the potential to push class sizes to unacceptable levels. Others feared having to eliminate staff as well as extra-curricular activities.
Ag School principal William Hook is one of the few principals who was given a clear picture last week of what the school cuts might look like. At a meeting Tuesday with Claypool and other CPS leadership, Hook was told to brace for $505,000 in cuts next year.
He was unsure how he'd specifically come up with the money considering the magnet school at 3857 W. 111th St. in Mount Greenwood already had its budget slashed by $56,481, or 1.36 percent Feb. 9 in a series of mid-year cuts from CPS.
He suspected that a pair of retiring teachers would not be replaced, class sizes would jump to 33 students across the board, after-school tutoring sessions would move to the lunch hour, overtime would be restricted and more.
Most schools have been left merely to contemplate the size of the budget gap they will need to fill. In the meantime, elementary school principals and others are encouraging parents to make their way to Springfield Thursday, too.
"I'm sure there will be parents that drive down and accompany those buses," O'Shea said.
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