The summer of 2015 has been rife with financial complications for Chicago Public Schools.
The district has long been in a billion dollar budget hole, and school board members voted on Wednesday to approve taking on just over a billion dollars in additional debt.
Watch the video: Chicago Tonight's Brandis Friedman discusses Wednesday's board meeting, and the dueling protests outside CPS district headquarters in the Loop.
Before this morning’s board meeting, there were dueling rallies outside CPS district headquarters in the Loop.
In one corner, parents and teachers supporting the Chicago Teachers Union were protesting CPS budget cuts, layoffs and calling for a boycott of Bank of America.
The CTU argues that because 400 CPS neighborhood schools are receiving less money this year than they did last year, principals can't afford to maintain their previous staffing levels and keep all of their teachers, classroom assistances, and bus aides.
Some folks are especially concerned about what these cuts mean for special education students.
On the opposite sidewalk, supporters of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools protested the district's announcement that they'd receive only 15 percent of their quarterly budget payments -- with no set date for when the remaining 85 percent of those payments would be made.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, the board approved the sale of three former school sites for a total of $8.5 million. The schools, which closed in 2013, are Near North Elementary (739 N. Ada St.), Von Humboldt Elementary (2620 W. Hirsch St.), and Overton Elementary (221 E. 49th St.). Bids are being accepted through Aug. 4 for the former site of Trumball Elementary (5200 N. Ashland Ave.).
Liza Balistreri, CPS’ Director of Real Estate, told the board that she expects additional savings by not having to maintain the buildings further. She said that there are approximately eight other sales in the works and she hopes to return to the board seeking approval for more in the near future. She also told board members that the new uses for the buildings were conceived with input from aldermen and community members.
In a news release issued by CPS, interim CEO Jesse Ruiz stated:
“The agreements authorized today represent real progress in the District’s undertaking with community leaders to repurpose these important former school sites and meet the unique needs of each community. While there is still work to be done, we are working deliberately to ensure former schools sites bring value to CPS and their local communities for years to come.”