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School To Close After-School Program Amid CPS Mid-Year Budget Cuts

By Ed Komenda | February 9, 2017 6:06am
 After a $115,000 cut, Armour Elementary plans to cut its afterschool program April 6.
After a $115,000 cut, Armour Elementary plans to cut its afterschool program April 6.
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BRIDGEPORT — Facing an unexpected midyear budget cut that will leave the school short more than $115,000, Armour Elementary School must cut its after-school program.

Marc Sokolowski, an Armour teacher and 29-year veteran of Chicago Public Schools, said the cuts are unacceptable.

“How much more can we sacrifice?” he said.

Chicago Public Schools officials said Monday they would slash $46 million from schools' budgets to fill the hole blown in the district's budget by Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of $215 million officials had been counting on.

The citywide spending freeze marks the second consecutive year that schools have been jolted by midyear budget cuts, forcing neighborhood principals to slash programs.

At Armour Elementary, where 91 percent of students are non-white and 93 percent come from low-income households, the after-school program serves 70 students — or about a third of the school’s enrollment.

The free program runs from 2:45-5 p.m. weekdays. During that time, students get a third hot meal, time to work on homework and access to math and reading tutors.

The school plans to cut the program April 6.

School officials said the absence of the after-school program will be detrimental to the performance of students in the classroom.

“These kids aren’t at their grade level. I have a sixth-grader that’s doing math at a second-grade level,” Sokolowski said. “He gets lost in the system. He gets further behind. How do you catch him up? How’s he going to go to high school and be with his peers when he’s at a second-grade level? How?”

Here’s a look at how other schools fared throughout the city:

In a Feb. 6 letter to families, Chicago Public Schools boss Forrest Claypool blamed Rauner's veto of a school funding package for the cuts — a move, he said, that is unfair to struggling families.

"Governor Rauner is targeting our most vulnerable citizens: immigrant children, racial minorities, the poor," Claypool wrote.

Many of the largest budget cuts impact schools with predominantly non-white student populations.

At Armour, where 81 percent of students are Hispanic, the district slashed 3.8 percent of its $3 million budget. At Healy Elementary, where 60 percent of students are Asian, the district slashed 3.75 percent of its $10.6 million budget. At Chalmers, where about 96 percent of students are black, the district slashed 4.54 percent of its $3.4 million budget.

Citywide, the district cut an average of 1.63 percent from school budgets.

At Blaine Elementary, where 60 percent of students are white, the district slashed .12 percent from its $6 million budget — or about $7,000.

Not all predominantly white schools fare as well. Dirksen Elementary in Norwood Park, where 70 percent of students are white, lost 5 percent of its $6.4 million budget.

Claypool, who last month ordered four unpaid furlough days for all CPS employees to save $35 million, compared Rauner to Donald Trump.

"But while the Governor and his friends fight about how to solve the problem, they know that every day they cheat your children of their fair share, they can score political points with their own supporters. Just like President Trump," Claypool wrote to families. "Please join us in demanding that the Governor and his friends stop acting like President Trump. Please join us in demanding that your children receive their fair share of the money Illinois spends. Please join us in demanding that your children receive the quality education they deserve."

In a letter to Chicago parents on Rauner's letterhead and signed by Illinois Education Secretary Beth Purvis on Tuesday, the governor called the CPS cuts "curiously timed and unfortunate."

The governor's letter blamed "CPS' continued mismanagement" for the shortfall, and said the governor had been working to "help Chicago."

That came a day after Claypool accused the governor of attacking the "most vulnerable among us — largely poor and minority students — to score points in a political chess match."

RELATED: Rauner Is 'Acting Like Trump,' Forcing $46 Million In Midyear CPS Cuts, Claypool Says

Regardless of who is the blame, teachers said the priorities of leadership at the state and city level are all wrong.

Supporting institutions that shape contributing citizens should be the most important mission, Sokolowski said.

“Everybody has a game plan. Everybody figured it out. Everybody’s trying to get growth, because that’s what we’re all measured on, and you keep taking that money away, just because you have to fill a hole. So do you respect education?” Sokolowski said. “Do they really respect us?”

Schools in the 60608, 60609 and 60616 ZIP codes — including Bridgeport, Chinatown, Canaryville and Back of the Yards — took hits Monday. Here's a look at those cuts:

• Air Force High School is set to lose $67,869, or 1.95 percent.

• Armour School, $115,451, 3.8 percent

• Back of the Yards High School, $214,728, 2.64 percent

• Beethoven Elementary, $41,685, 0.94 percent

• Beasley, $39,313, 0.38 percent

• Bronzeville High School, $18,880, 0.48 percent

• Chavez Elementary, $277,592, 3.38 percent

• Daley Elementary, $75,032, 1.56 percent

• Dewey, $105,387, 2.65 percent

• Doolittle East, $40,978, 1.45 percent

• Evergreen Elementary, $66,764, 2.04 percent

• Graham Elementary, 51,462, 1.22 percent

• Haines, $46,388, 0.94 percent

• Hamline, $128,106, 2.29 percent

• Healy, $397,097, 3.75 percent

• Hedges, $75,886, 1.31 percent

• Hendricks, $43,050, 1.57 percent

• Holden, $48,354, 1.12 percent

• Lara Academy, $24,907, 0.61 percent

• Arthur A. Libby, $60,341, 1.60 percent

• McClellan, $53,073, 1.41 percent

• Pershing East, $38,390, 0.80 percent

• Richards Career Academy, $14,670, 0.48 percent

• Seward, $141,658, 2.20 percent

• Sheridan, $144,768, 3.16 percent

• Sherman Elementary School, $47,539, 1.63 percent

• Tilden, $17,474, 0.41 percent

• James Ward, $29,660, 0.65 percent