Updated 08/28/13 – 3:50 p.m
CHICAGO (CBS) — About 200 people — including 20 to 30 students — rallied outside Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday, as the Board of Education on Wednesday approved the district’s annual budget, which includes hundreds of millions in cuts.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports the students were boycotting school for a day to protest school closings and budget cuts at CPS.
Community activists who organized the protest rally and boycott said it would serve as a real-life lesson for students.
CPS is facing a $1 billion budget deficit for this school year. The Board of Education voted 7-0 to approve the district’s a $5.58 billion budget plan.
It cuts classroom spending by $68 million, reduces central office expenses by $112 million, raises its property tax levy by $42 million, and taps $700 million in reserve funds to eliminate the deficit.
“The alternative to using the reserves is to inflict what we think would be devastating pain on our schools,” said CPS administrative officer Tim Cawley.
The biggest problem now facing CPS: underfunded teachers pensions. There are $400 million in pension payments alone this year.
And without pension relief from Springfield, there no chance CPS can repeat the same financial magic next year.
“Pension reform means a change that comes out of somebody’s hide. whether it’s taxpayers, unions or whatever,” said CPS board member Henry Bienen.
Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation said, “There is no wiggle room in this budget. It will mean if there’s something not foreseen, we’ll have to cut personnel and more schools.”