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Lightfoot foists $175 million in City pension obligations on CPS while CPS slashes school budgets, as District sits on $1.4 billion in federal COVID relief dollars, low-balls scope of harm from cuts to critical programs.

  • 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 24: Hibbard Elementary, 3244 W. Ainslie, school protest against $430k budget cut that will harm the school’s 80 percent impoverished Latinx children.

CHICAGO — With the Albany Park community still reeling from two years of trauma and loss from the devastating pandemic, CPS is imposing $430,000 in budget cuts at HIbbard Elementary, a beloved school in the predominantly Latinx community. But the school community is fighting back.

Parents and educators will condemn the cruel and destabilizing budget cuts at a rally and press conference before school Tuesday, May 24, at 7 a.m., at the school, located at 3244 W. Ainslie.

The budget cuts at Hibbard — and hundreds of other schools — come at a time when CPS is sitting on at least $1.4 billion in unspent federal COVID relief funds that must be used by 2024, and over $300 million in federal COVID relief funds that were supposed to be directed to student needs this year. At the same time, Mayor Lightfoot’s hand-picked board has agreed to pay $175 million this year in City of Chicago pension obligations to the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund. While the City of Chicago is legally responsible for these pension costs, the mayor’s hand-picked board agreed to allow the city to foist these costs on the school district, at the expense of students.

Parents at Hibbard, like those at hundreds of schools across the District, are bracing for staff cuts and dwindling programs if the draconian cuts are allowed to stand.

The cuts at schools across the city are even more disgraceful after the district pledged next year would be a “recovery” year for students, their families and their school communities. Instead, CPS is slashing $60 million from budgets at more than half of schools, with some schools losing upwards of $900,000 at a time when school communities are crying out for stability and equitable support.

Since receiving next year’s budgets, administrators have been warning educators of staff cuts, split classrooms, reductions in critical areas of support like special education, and larger class sizes — all in a district that has struggled with overcrowding at many schools and system-wide special education violations.

Schools continue to be trapped in another round of budget hunger games that is ratcheting up stress on already anxious and traumatized parents, educators and students who have been struggling simply to survive during the pandemic.

The CTU, parents and elected officials are demanding that CPS reverse the devastating budget cuts at Hibbard and all other schools and instead use unspent COVID relief funds to plug funding gaps for the rest of this year and next year.

The Union is also demanding that CPS ditch its racist, inequitable student-based budgeting formula and move to a more equity-driven formula like the State of Illinois did in 2017. That new funding system directs more revenue to schools based on student needs — substantially increasing the state contribution to CPS coffers — yet CPS itself refuses to use an equity-based lens in distributing those state funds.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.