CPS Preps for Last-Minute Funding Pitch

Chicago Public Schools officials have their eyes on Springfield.

At its board meeting Wednesday, the district stepped up its push to get community members and school leaders involved in lobbying lawmakers to provide more money to Chicago schools.

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To make their case to lawmakers, CEO Forrest Claypool, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson and anyone else who's concerned will hop on buses Thursday morning and head to Springfield for a day of action, including a rally for fair education funding.

For a while now, CPS has made the case that if the district has 20 percent of the state's enrollment, it should receive 20 percent of the state's funding.

Most recently, the district has allowed principals to start making the case, getting help from students who produced a video at Amundsen High School. Students at Lindblom High School made a funding video earlier this year as well.

Adequate school funding came up again and again during Wednesday's board meeting from both members of the public and the board.

“With one voice, these issues across the state will express the outrage that we feel toward the funding system that so blatantly discriminates against poor and minority children throughout the state of Illinois,” Claypool said. “Illinois has the most regressive funding formula in the country, and it forces districts like Chicago to the breaking point. It says to our students … that their futures don’t matter as much as children in the rest of the state.”

Last week, CPS told 15 principals how much money each of their schools would lose if the district had to create a budget without additional funding from Springfield, because the district can't borrow any more money.

But other schools are calculating what their budget cuts might be, based on the predicted 39-percent decrease in the student-based budget rate.  

We spoke with Dave Belanger, the principal of Hanson Park Elementary in Belmont-Cragin (a school at 145 percent capacity), about what even a 20 percent cut might mean.

“For Hanson Park, that would equate approximately to at least 10 staff members and teachers, and probably another six to eight support staff,” said Dave Belanger. “If that budget decrease goes closer to 39 percent, as I’ve seen reported in the media, that could be close to 20 teachers, which would significantly change the teacher force here.”

Belanger says these predicted cuts could add up to $2.4 million out of his $14 million budget.

He hopes he doesn't get to the point of having to look at his teachers' certifications and years of experience to decide who stays and who goes.

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