Chicago schools budget: relief on class sizes and preschools, other cuts still on the table

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When Gov. Pat Quinn signed pension reform last week, reducing CPS’
burden by $400 million and shrinking the deficit, the question was what
would be spared of the many programs and people CEO Ron Huberman
threatened to cut.

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed pension reform last week, reducing CPS’ burden by $400 million and shrinking the deficit, the question was what would be spared of the many programs and people CEO Ron Huberman threatened to cut.

On Thursday, after Huberman held a budget briefing for all principals, the picture became a little clearer. Instead of having school staff program for 37 students per classroom, he’s now having them plan for 35 students, spokeswoman Monique Bond says. Currently, schools plan for 31 students in each class.

 Bond stresses that the budget is “in construction” and other things could be taken off the chopping block in the coming weeks.

Also, Huberman is no longer planning to cut $34 million out of early childhood programs. With those cuts, the district would have been forced to close all preschools that serve fewer than 93 percent low-income children and small bilingual enrollment.

 The briefing on Thursday sets the stage for the principals to get their overdue school budgets, which were supposed to go out a month ago and be turned in by next Friday. Now, the budgets and school improvement plans are due on May 7. Area offices will then have a week to look at them.

 Huberman is stressing that the budget crisis is not over. Even with the pension relief, he says CPS is looking at a $600 million shortfall. That means major cuts to magnet and selective enrollment schools, transportation and charter schools are still on the table.

 Huberman has spent some of his week in Springfield lobbying lawmakers to approve a 1 percentage point increase in the state income tax. On Friday, he will hold a press conference with faith-based leaders, parents and students at a West Side elementary school.

However, many think the legislature, which is set to adjourn in two weeks, will pass a placeholder budget for six months and revisit tax increases after the fall elections.