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Aldermen Grill CPS Officials On Budget Cuts For Schools

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The City Council Education Committee was taking a hard look at the Chicago Public Schools budget at a City Hall hearing on Friday, and aldermen were raising questions about spending cuts for neighborhood schools.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports CPS budget director Ginger Ostro told the committee school finances are mostly under pressure due to the lack of state pension reforms.

The schools have been using one-time funds to help close the spending gap – an expected $1 billion shortfall for next school year.

“As we continue to use one-time resources to manage the budget, our financial challenges continue into the future; and particularly if we don’t have any pension reform, we continue to face the same challenges that we’re facing this year,” she said.

CPS plans to tap $700 million in one-time reserves, and cut total classroom spending by $68 million to help balance the budget.

Some aldermen, like Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), expressed concerns that privately-run charter schools are getting more resources, and in ways that even growing neighborhood schools are not.

Ostro tried to explain.

“There are a number of charter schools and contract schools that are expanding grades this year, as well as some new programs. In addition, we have some new schools coming online to help re-engage dropouts as well this year, and so there’s expansions in those areas,” she said.

Dowell asked why neighborhood elementary schools with increasing enrollment would get a decrease in budget, Ostro said she believes the funding has been constant in such cases. But Dowell said the numbers would show otherwise.

School officials said they’d get back to the aldermen on the apparent differences in funding for charter schools and neighborhood schools.

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