Hundreds Attend Public Hearings to Criticize CPS’s 2012 Budget
Chicago Public Schools hosted a series of three hearings on its Fiscal Year 2012 budget last week which included testimony from teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and CTU members and representatives.
At the hearings, the public criticized the Board for cuts to essential services and cited inaccuracies in enrolment figures and cost projections. Each participant was only allowed 2 minutes to ask questions and comment on the budget, which were released shortly before the hearings with no physical copies for taxpayers to pore over. The panel of CPS bureaucrats who presided over the meeting rarely engaged the speakers and insisted that answers to their questions will be recorded on the CPS website.
At the Lane Tech hearing, CTU President Karen Lewis described that she felt the budget was a “done deal” and that parents and taxpayers should have a place at the table from the beginning, not at the end of the process.
At each of the hearings, the public decried cuts to staff and essential programs while the Board refuses to fight TIFs, which deplete schools of $250 million a year or renegotiate toxic bank “swaps” which cost the district around $36 million a year.
“Why is the TIF untouchable?” asked Sonia Kwon of the parent group Raise Your Hand at Lane Tech, “When will [the Board of Education] Fight for our children like they fight for TIFs?”
The second hearing took place at Westinghouse High School on the west side where CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle slammed the Board for making $87 million in cuts to programs while inflating the estimate for teachers’ salaries.
One of these programs that may be affected is a restorative justice program called “High Hopes,” which CTU member and 2nd grade teacher at Shields Elementary Alexandria Hollet told the Board is crucial for student retention. She said that cutting the program and reverting to zero tolerance policies will force students out of the classroom.
The final hearing was held at Simeon High School on the south side on Friday, August 12th. It brought in around 200 people.
Richard Washington, a community member, explained that in the manufacturing industry, the board’s budget would be called “downsizing” and spoke about how the Board has been firing good teachers in exchange for cheap teachers.
CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson advocated for a more inclusive budgeting process that includes CTU and community.
According to CPS, answers to questions posed at the hearings should be found at cps.edu this week.