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CPS hoarding $1.4 billion in federal COVID relief dollars, low-balling scope of budget cuts, which will result in split classrooms, bigger classes, less resources for students who need more social emotional support.

  • 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 26: press conference with parents, CTU educators, CTU officers. Zapata Elementary School, 2728 S. Kostner Ave., Chicago

CHICAGO — After two years of struggle and loss during the pandemic, CPS’ response to deepening student needs at Zapata Elementary school has been to slash the school budget by over $800,000, threatening to cut the school community’s cadre of trusted adults by a dozen or more. While CPS has indicated it may relent and return some funds, that’s not good enough for members of the Zapata school community, who want more resources for students at the school, not less – and not just at their school, but at every Chicago public school.

Parents will join CTU educators and officers to condemn the cruelty and incompetence the cuts reflect – and demand their reversal – at a press conference at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 26 at Zapata, located at 2728 S. Kostner Ave.

CPS’ unnecessary cuts are expected to hit at least half of the District’s schools, at a time when school communities are crying out for stability and equitable support. Management is already warning educators at many schools of staff cuts, split classrooms, reductions in critical areas of support like special education, bigger class sizes in a district that has struggled with overcrowding at many schools, and less resources for students and educators reeling from two years of a pandemic.

CPS held schools harmless from budget cuts during the first two school years of the pandemic, but in March the District dropped the hammer, announcing $60 million in school budget cuts – even though the District is sitting on at least $1.4 billion dollars in unspent federal COVID relief funds that must be used by 2024. But the real cuts to schools could be well over double that amount, because schools got no extra funds from the District to cover contractually mandated cost of living increases.

That’s left schools trapped in another round of budget hunger games that is driving devastating cuts at schools across the city. Some schools are confronting deep cuts in special education services and supports. Other school communities lucky enough to have a full-time technology coordinator are under pressure to cut those workers and instead opt for a new CPS privatization scheme – in a district where privatization has been marred by failure and corruption. Technology coordinators were essential to helping schools weather virtual learning, and instead of cutting those essential workers, CPS should ensure that every school has technology coordinators’ hands-on technology support in the 21st century.

While CPS has hammered neighborhood public schools with devastating budget cuts for years, the mayor and her hand-picked board could reverse course, instead use unspent COVID relief funds to plug in the gaps at schools for the rest of this year and next year – and begin to actually work to create sustainable solutions for the District’s funding needs.

The District must also ditch its racist, inequitable funding formula for schools. Illinois passed an equity-driven funding formula in 2017 that directed more revenue to schools based on student needs – substantially increasing the state contribution to CPS coffers – yet CPS refuses to use an equity-based lens itself in distributing those state funds. Instead, CPS continues to use Rahm Emanuel’s despised and wildly misnamed ‘student-based budgeting’ scheme, which essentially funds schools based on head counts instead of student needs – a path that parents, educators and policymakers condemn as racist and fundamentally inequitable.