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Parents Slam CPS Plans To Spend Nearly $10M On Office Furniture

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Public Schools’ plan to more than double its budget for office furniture was not sitting well with parents, especially those who believe schools are being shortchanged.

Demonstrators shouted chants of “save our schools” outside CPS headquarters in the Loop on Wednesday, during a Board of Education meeting where it approved plans to spend $9.5 billion on office furniture – $5 million more than last year.

CPS is moving its central headquarters from 125 S. Clark St. to smaller offices at 1 N. Dearborn St., and officials have said the old furniture won’t fit in the new location.

The move to double the budget wasn’t sitting well with parents whose children attended one of the 48 schools closed by the district last summer.

“That money that they’re spending for furniture, they could have used to help these schools without closing them,” said Jeanette Taylor, the Local School Council chair at Mollison Elementary, a “welcoming school” for Overton Elementary, one of the schools closed last summer

Protesters outside Wednesday’s board meeting were upset the district plans to double its furniture budget at the same time CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett has proposed a major overhaul known as a “turnaround” at three schools next year.

Under turnaround plans, the entire staffs at Gresham Elementary, Dvorak Technology Academy, and McNair Elementary would get the boot, and would be turned over to the nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership, which already oversees 29 schools in Chicago. All three schools have been on probation for several years.

Although district officials have said AUSL has a better record at improving schools than the rest of the district, Dvorak LSC chair Angela Gordon wasn’t buying it.

“The resources that you plan to give the AUSL, I dare you to give them to Dvorak, and let Dvorak move their scores,” she said.

Zabrina Washington, who has a student at Dvorak, said neighborhood schools don’t get enough resources to make the progress CPS requires.

“Dvorak does not need AUSL to come into our schools. What we need is the funding that CPS is going to provide for them to our schools,” she said.

Washington and other opponents of the plans said the schools targeted for turnarounds would get as good results as top CPS schools if the district gave them the same kind of money.

“You say it’s about the children and they’re first, but on last night I heard that they’re getting new furniture in this building, not because it’s torn up, but just because it don’t look right. Well guess what? Tturning our school around don’t look right either,” said Lisa Russell, whose children attend Dvorak.

Ollie Clements, who has two grandchildren at Gresham, said she’s tired of money flowing freely to charter schools, while resources are taken away from neighborhood schools. She had a message for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“We don’t want to beg you anymore, we want what’s ours, and we demand what’s ours, and if you cannot give it to us, you will not get the votes come election time,” she said.

CPS has contended it will be cheaper to buy and install new furniture at the new headquarters, rather than disassembling and moving the old furniture.

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