If it Sounds Too Good to be True, It Probably Is!

Source: cps.edu

Source: cps.edu

Starting in the 2013-2014 school years, Chicago Public School principals’ budgets will be based on per-pupil spending instead of the per-position spending from years past. The CPS marketing department must have been in full gear when they issued a press release heralding “autonomy” over the school budget for principals. As principals received their budgets for the next school year, many are realizing that their new “autonomy” is coming at a huge price; in some cases over $1 million. Many of the school’s budgets are short thousands of dollars for next year from the year before, which forces principals to make tough decisions about staffing for the next school year.

Of course many people could foresee this classic case of bait-and-switch coming down the pipe especially after CPS’ historic closing of 50 schools and the layoff of almost 4,000 employees in Philadelphia. Jackson Potter, of the Chicago Teachers Union, told the Chicago Sun-Times that city’s budget deficit would eventually hit the schools. The budget cuts has even created an unlikely alliance between the CTU and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. INCS argue that some of the charter schools, especially high schools, are going to have a hard time retaining teachers due to budget cuts.

Some of the publicized cuts include:

  • Amundsen HIgh School $780k
  • Gage Park High School $1 Million
  • Roosevelt High School $1 Million
  • Ray $400k
  • Bell School $750k
  • Mitchell $780k
  • Alcott $700k
  • Pritzker $186k
  • Goethe $275k
  • Beasley $550k
  • Darwin $723k
  • Burr $365k
  • Grimes-Fleming $458k
  • Morill $500k
  • Kozminski $250k
  • Belding Elementary lost 18%
  • Haines Three Positions
  • Jamieson about $290k (+ the loss of two bilingual positions)

These cuts are alarming. Principals will inevitably have to increase class size and some schools aren’t prepared for the swelling. The increase in class size may result in split classrooms in elementary schools and high school teachers teaching more than one or two classes a paradigm that doesn’t allow for the best learning results for students. A spokesman from CPS retorted that all of the budget decisions are “owned by the principal.”

The cuts in budgets, the closing of 50 schools, and the strike all in the same school year has done nothing but deepened the lack of trust between the district and other stakeholders. The underlying theme among all of these events is the lack of transparency in the decision making and the spin coming from both CPS and the Mayor’s Office. The budget cuts is probably the most egregious, because before principals received a budget they had no idea what the cost of the “autonomy” that CPS was giving them. Furthermore, CPS is literally throwing the principals under the bus to make the tough decisions necessary to keep their school running effectively. This tactic is especially incredulous since Bennett was a former principal, a point that she made in the official press release.  In other words with CPS, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Among all of the chaos, the district has the facilitation of the longer school day, implementation of the new Common Core Standards, the implementation of a new evaluation system, the creation of full-day kindergarten for all elementary schools and the enrollment of students from 50 shuttered schools. I am becoming increasingly confused as to how the leadership of Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Rahm Emanuel is yielding positive results for CPS students. The outright deception of the budgeting process is definitely a step in the wrong direction and is frankly irresponsible. One CPS principal said it best in her Powerpoint for her school’s LSC, “Don’t want autonomy-Need $$$.”

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