Teachers could be cut this week, say union leaders as they protest CPS cut budgets
LITTLE VILLAGE — With a wave of teacher cuts possible as early as this week, dozens of Chicago teachers’ union representatives, school teachers and local political leaders gathered in Little Village on Tuesday to criticize the budget proposed by school district and advocate for additional COVID-19 relief. .
Teachers and union representatives said they expected administrators to start posting “organization charts” as early as Wednesday detailing the jobs that will be cut in the next school year due to budget constraints.
The CPS has proposed spending more globally in the 2022-23 school year, but critics have slammed the district for proposing sweeping school-level budget cuts, with Little Village particularly hard hit. The district has since restored some of that funding; about 23 percent of schools are now slated for cuts.
Pablo Vega, a special education teacher at Little Village Academy, said he expected the tight budget would mean the loss of five teachers from his school. Carmencita Perez, a teacher at Gary Elementary School, said budget cuts at her school could mean the loss of nine teachers, including the school librarian and the art teacher.
The librarian helps run the school’s literacy program for its approximately 800 students, according to Perez.
“It’s a predominantly bilingual school,” Ms. Perez said, making remarks in Spanish and English. “Our students need that money, and it’s been cut.
The Chicago Public School District released its draft budget for fiscal year 2023 in March, announcing an overall $139 million year-over-year increase in school funding and touting investments in teacher support, plus two additional professional development days for staff. But enrollment is down by 10,000 students across the district.
The district is due to release its full budget later this summer, which will be voted on by the school board.
In an emailed statement, a CPS spokesperson said the district is prioritizing funding for more than 200 schools with declining enrollment, including $5 million to protect 68 schools with “severe declines in enrollment.” enrollment,” and touted an overall increase in per-student funding. They added that Little Village schools would specifically receive district funding for summer programming, professional development and student devices that normally came from school budgets.
“We are spending more on Black and Latino children,” the statement said. “Average funding per student increases from $10,737 this year to $11,487 next year.
But the data shows that schools in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Little Village have the second most drastic cuts of any neighborhood.
Little Village schools have lost nearly a fifth of their students during the pandemic, resulting in a proposed funding loss of $2.7 million, according to Chalkbeat. Gary Elementary will lose about $400,000 of its budget, while Little Village Academy will lose about $114,000, according to an analysis by Chalkbeat.
In response, the Chicago Teachers Union pushed the district to use money from federal Covid-19 relief programs to preserve school funding. Union representatives said at Tuesday’s rally that the CPS was sitting on $1.4 billion in funds that remain unallocated. They also blasted the school board’s recent decision to take on $170 million in pension payments, saying the money should go to students.
“[CPS] is taking money from federal support dollars that were supposed to support needy students during the pandemic and using it to pay off the city’s outstanding retirement debt,” CTU President Jesse Sharky said. at Tuesday’s rally. “Schools are once again being used as a piggy bank to prop up the poor financial choices the city… has made over the past few decades.”
In their statement, the CPS said it has earmarked about 40% of the district’s $2.8 billion Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to pay for additional school staff and air filtration systems for each classroom, among others. The statement did not address specific issues regarding upcoming teacher layoffs and the use of other relief funds.
CTU spokesman Chris Geovanis did not have exact figures on the total number of teachers expected based on the budget.
At Tuesday’s rally, teachers from other schools in the neighborhood, including Crown Academy – a school in North Lawndale which is facing a proposed 17% budget cut – as well as Hammond Elementary, showed solidarity with teachers from Little Village, holding signs demanding that CPS “Free Funds.”
Local political leaders including State Senator Celina Villanueva, Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya and Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said the budget cuts are particularly devastating for a neighborhood among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m frustrated. And I’m mad,” Villanueva said. much longer, way before COVID.”
Vega said Little Village Academy has seen an influx of Spanish-speaking students from Central America, many of whom need additional resources threatened by the proposed budget.
“They don’t even know the letters. We need to spend one-on-one time with them to learn the basics,” Vega said. “With this cut, some rooms will have to be merged, so I don’t know what will happen to these bilingual students and the services they need and need.”
The rally took place at 3:30 p.m., just after neighborhood schools closed for the day. Perez, a middle school science and math teacher who lives in the area, said she is the mother of nine former CPS students, as well as the grandmother of 13 current CPS children, including two in Gary. The school year ends on June 14. But with teacher cuts looming, she can only look far ahead.
“It affects my life as a teacher. It affects my life as a parent. It affects me as a member of the community,” she said. “We need to get that money back.”
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