Coming to Chicago schools: 37 students in a class and other budget details

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CEO Ron Huberman gathered together all principals and chief area officers Monday morning to tell them to prepare for the worst, presenting them with a detailed list of sacred cows that would have to be cut with if state legislators don’t find more money for schools next year.

CEO Ron Huberman gathered together all principals and chief area
officers Monday morning to tell them to prepare for the worst,
presenting them with a detailed list of sacred cows that would have to
be cut with if state legislators don’t find more money for schools next
year.

Among the cuts: increasing class sizes to 37; slashing money for
magnets, gifted and International Baccalaureate programs, including
scrapping all transportation to them; cuts from bilingual and early
childhood education; 18 percent cuts in per-pupil funding provided to
charter schools; and perhaps cutting assistant principals. (Here is Huberman’s Power Point. Skip to page
25 and 26 for the breakdown.)

Huberman would also like to get the teachers’ union to agree to forgo teacher raises that were promised in the last contract. But the list he released Monday were of areas he could control.

This meeting was clearly a way to rally principals into action, with
Huberman telling principals to “raise hell,” according to one, who asked
not to be identified. Principals will be getting letters to send out to
parents and are encouraged to have teachers, and even students, write
letters.

CPS is facing a budget deficit of almost $1 billion, the result of
increased costs, a huge payment due to the teachers’ pension fund and
declining state and local tax revenues. Huberman has been lobbying state
lawmakers to let the district off the hook for some of the pension bill
and to increase the income tax.

It’s unclear whether state lawmakers will take any action.

Huberman told principals that they will need to prepare their budgets
for next year as though the district will get no more money, according
to his PowerPoint presentation. If more cash comes in, they can build
the budgets back up quickly.

The other option, the one Huberman doesn’t want to take, is to “bury
their heads in sand” and then be forced to make reductions at the last
minute. Over the next month, principals will start their budget
preparations for next year.

Clarice Berry, head of the Chicago Principals’ Association, said she was
disappointed at what she terms “misinformation” being given out by the
district.

In elementary schools, for instance, assistant principals are classified
teaching positions (principals usually find a way to free them from
teaching duties). These positions, Berry says, are vital to everyday
operations because AP’s handle discipline and are second in command when
principals are unavailable.

Berry says that Huberman’s staff erroneously told principals they would
be able to choose who would be laid off. Not true, Berry says—school
mandates and the union contract stipulate who can go and who can’t.

The principals understood that the scenarios presented were “fluid,” but
Huberman’s presentation did scare them. “My phone has been ringing of
the hook,” Berry says.

One principal at a West Side school says he and his colleagues took the
news seriously and are frightened. “Wow,” he says.

Spokeswoman Monique Bond says Huberman went over the cuts and 536
layoffs that he made over the last year. Last month, Huberman said he
planned to layoff 500 more workers in mid-March, but has yet to do so.
Bond says positions have been identified, but that pink slips haven’t
been issued yet and she’s unsure when that will happen.