Just a month ago — when they were intent on closing 50 schools — the watchword at CPS was “quality education.”
“What we must do is ensure that the resources that some kids get, all kids get,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett in an internet ad funded by the right-wing Walton Family Foundation. “And these resources include libraries and access to technology and science labs and art classrooms….
“And with our consolidations we’re able to guarantee that our children will get what they need and what they deserve.”
That was then.
Raise Your Hand has released a very partial list of budget cuts faced by schools under the district’s new per-pupil funding system, and it’s impressive:
Goethe, Jamieson, Kozmisky, Sutherland, each will lose between $250,000 and $300,000. Audobon, Belden, Gale, Grimes Fleming, and Ray, between $400,000 and $500,000. Bell, Darwin Mitchell, Murphy, Suder, Sullivan High, betweeen $700,000 and $800,000. Gage Park High, Lincoln Park High, Mather Elementary, Roosevelt High, $1 million or thereabouts. Foreman High, $1.7 million.
CTU reports that Taft High School faces a $3 million cut.
According to Wendy Katten of RYH, every school they’ve contacted faces budget cuts. So far they have figures from about 10 percent of CPS schools, and the cuts total about $45 million, she said. (CTU budget analyst Kurt Hilgendorf said the union has requested district-wide figures on cuts but CPS has declined to supply them.)
“It’s horrific,” she said. “There are terrible losses.”
It also clearly contravene’s Byrd-Bennett’s promise about what school consolidations would accomplish.
Losing library access
Two high schools,Von Steuben and Lincoln Park, are reported to be considering laying off librarians — at Von Steuben it would mean no open-access library; at Lincoln Park, the library would remain open part of the school day but not after school — but many more principals are being forced to choose between staffing their libraries and having enough teachers.
At many schools it will mean eliminating art or music. At Katten’s son’s school, it looks like art will be eliminated and physical education will be staffed by a part-time teacher — which means gym just twice a week, far below the state requirement.
Funding for enrichment programming as part of the longer school day trumpeted by Emanuel last year is being eliminated. At many schools, “the longer day is not going to be very enriching,” Katten said.
And many schools will be forced to lay off teachers and increase class sizes. Audubon Elementary, losing $400,000, is considering laying off as many as six teachers, which will raise class sizes to 37 to 45, according to DNA Info. Sullivan High is considering laying off seven teachers; Kelly High could lose ten or fifteen.
CPS’s per-pupil funding system, touted as a boon to principal autonomy, has turned out to be yet another way to remove resources from neighborhood schools.
It’s as if Emanuel thought he could cut his way to better schools.
And while the city’s elite clearly prefers budget cuts and layoffs to deal with CPS’s financial troubles, parents and teachers see another way.
Raise Your Hand is organizing “TIF squads” in every ward to compile the details of how schools are being affected. They’ll use the information to impress individual aldermen with the necessity of declaring a TIF surplus and returning funds to CPS.
“We need a long-term sustainable solution at the state level, but parents refuse to accept these cuts now while the city is simultaneously handing out property tax money for projects like a $55-million DePaul stadium,” Katten said.
The group is holding an All South Side Schools meeting Thursday, June 20 at 7 p.m.at Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn, to continue organizing. Friday, June 21 at 10 a.m., they’re holding a parent rally against cuts at the State of Illinois buildling, Randolph and Clark.
In the next year they’re among many groups planning a serious drive to fix Illinois’s regressive tax structure — a desperately needed reform to address school funding as well as the state’s fiscal crisis. Will Emanuel and the school board join in?
Where the money is
In her City Club address Tuesday, CTU president Karen Lewis outlined a series of revenue measures that would tap into the vast wealth generated by the financial sector and restore a measure of balance to the tax system — and financial stability to governing bodies.
“The CTU wants to work with our leaders in City Hall, Springfield and at the board to solve these sorts of problems,” she said. “We can’t work together on these issues because they keep creating new problems.”
Instead of sharply dividing the city with his campaign of school closings — which had virtually no impact on CPS’s fiscal problems — Emanuel could “take a holistic approach” and work with all stakeholders for basic changes that would really make a difference, Hilgendorf said.
One example: CTU backed legislation in the spring session that would close three corporate tax loopholes that bring no economic benefit and cost the state $445 million a year. It died in committee.
And while everyone’s attention and energy was absorbed by school closings, nothing got done on CPS’s pension crisis.
But at least we’re seeing progress on building a new stadium for DePaul.
At the Campaign for America’s Future, Richard Eskow promotes the new Education Declaration — which spells out what might be called real education reform — and provides an apt rundown of the modus operandus of “Michelle Rhee and Rahm Emanuel and the rest of their ilk, using the same playbook that’s been deployed against Social Security, Medicare and other vital government services. It goes like this:
1. Pretend that “budgets” are the real crisis – but never mention that corporations and the wealthy are paying less in taxes than ever before in modern history.
2. Make scapegoats of innocent people to draw attention away from yourselves. For Social Security they’ve attacked “greedy geezers,” but it’s hard to come up with a catchy equivalent for kids. (“Insatiable imps”? “Avaricious anklebiters”?) So they vilify teachers instead.
3. Sell a fantasy which says that the private sector can do more, with less money, than government can. (Never, never mention that private insurance provides far less healthcare than public insurance, at much higher cost. And don’t bring up the mess privatization’s made of prisons and other government services.)
4. Find a name that doesn’t use words like “money-making.” How about “charter schools”?
5. Describe yourselves as “reformers” – rather than, say, “demolishers.” That’s why “entitlement reform” is used as a euphemism for cutting Social Security and Medicare. (Michelle Rhee even called her autobiography “Radical.” Apparently “Shameless” was taken.)
6. Employ the political and media elite’s fascination with (and poor understanding of) numbers. Suggest that “standardized” and “data-driven” programs will solve everything – without ever mentioning that the truly ideological decisions are made when you decide what it is you’re measuring.
7. Co-opt the elite media into supporting your artificial description of the problem, as well as your entirely self-serving solution.
8. Use your money to co-opt politicians from both parties so you can present your agenda as “bipartisan” – a word which means you can “buy” a few “partisans” from both sides.
“It shouldn’t be surprising that all these attacks share a common playbook. The money’s coming from the same pockets, and for the same reasons: so they can keep their own taxes low – and make money from the privatization schemes.”