CHICAGO (CBS) — After weeks of discussions, the Chicago Public Schools budget comes down to a vote, and not everyone is thrilled with the direction the spending is going.
The Chicago Board of Education is expected to approve the $5.4 billion spending plan. CPS officials said the budget is balanced, but there are still plenty of critics.
The Chicago Teachers Union picketed outside CPS headquarters on Wednesday, to protest a budget they claim doesn’t have enough funding, and includes too many cuts and layoffs. Despite a driving rain, dozens of teachers, parents, and other activists turned out to send a message of disapproval to the school board. They said the budget the mayor’s hand-picked board plans to approve is a hatchet job that will hurt teachers and students.
Teachers also expressed outrage at 1,000 layoffs announced in early August, after CPS officials had said there would be no layoffs due to the budget.
“I feel really deceived right now that they told us there were not going to be any budget cuts, or it wasn’t going to affect the classroom, but in fact it did affect teachers and class sizes too,” said 5th grade teacher Carlos Carrillo.
Carrillo found out at the end of the summer that his principal would not be able to bring him back because of the layoffs, and the fact he was the “low man on the tenure pole.”
CPS has said the 1,000 layoffs announced in August were not the result of budget cuts, but declining enrollment at schools.
CTU and the district have yet to agree on a new contract, although the CPS budget is dependent on concessions the union has rejected.
Although the union has threatened to call for a strike if CPS eliminates a 7 percent pension contribution it has made on teachers’ behalf for years, CTU President Karen Lewis has said school will start on time.
“Absolutely we’re going to be in schools on time,” she said.
CPS officials say the budget reduces spending by more than $230 million compared to last year, while increasing property taxes to bankroll the district’s contributions to teachers’ pensions. If the $342 million tax hike is approved as expected, the owner of a $250,000 home in Chicago can expect to pay an additional $245 a year in property taxes.
The Civic Federation has criticized the CPS budget, because it relies on $215 million from the state. The fiscal watchdog group has said that funding might not materialize because of the ongoing dysfunction in Springfield.
Teachers report to school on Monday. The first day of classes is one week later.