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Jam-Packed Taft Classes Will Get Even More Crowded Thanks To CPS Budget

 Taft High School.
Taft High School.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

NORWOOD PARK — Classes at Taft High School will get bigger this school year after the latest round of budget cuts, Principal Mark Grishaber said Wednesday.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool announced Wednesday that schools would get $4,087 for each student, a 25 percent drop from the amount of money high schools got at the beginning of last school year for each student.

The effect of those cuts will be profound at Taft, which is expected to be the city's most crowded high school — again — when school starts after Labor Day, Grishaber said.

In all, Taft will lose $500,000 that Grishaber had been planning to use to replace teachers who retired and left the school. That means class sizes will grow by one or two students, he said.

Grishaber had also planned to renovate deteriorating parts of the school, including bathrooms and locker rooms this year, but those projects are now on hold.

"It is aggravating but we will get through it," Grishaber said of the cuts.

CPS officials Wednesday told reporters that they "held the line" on per pupil spending, noting that the amount is just $1 less than the amount schools received last year after an unprecedented round of mid-year budget cuts announced in February.

In all, Grishaber said the Norwood Park school has seen it's budget drop by approximately $1 million over the last year after three rounds of budget cuts implemented by CPS officials scrambling to fill a budget deficit they said once totaled $1 billion.

Grishaber said he was also considering raising fees for students by $20 to help offset the crunch and stepping up fundraising efforts.

Despite Grishaber's frustration, he said he was relieved that the cuts were not as bad as CPS officials warned in May as part of an effort to persuade state lawmakers to change the way schools are funded.

A stop-gap agreement approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner added $600 million to the district's coffers, leaving a deficit of $300 million. Claypool said he was not sure how that hole would be filled before the end of August, when the district is required by state law to pass a balanced budget.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey on Wednesday called the cuts announced by Claypool "unacceptable."

"To be clear, these fiscal decisions hurt our students," Sharkey said.

Despite promising to release budgets for each school Wednesday, district spokeswoman Emily Bittner said late Wednesday "technical difficulties" delayed the release of that information until Thursday.

Local School Councils have until July 22 to approve the budgets put together by principals using the funds allocated to each school by the district.

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