June 28, 2010
Restoration of a limited amount of state funds will allow Chicago Public Schools to save enough teaching positions to restore board-funded full-day kindergarten programs throughout the District and avoid elementary school class size increases.
The announcement by CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman follows action by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Governor to restore approximately $57 million in categorical funds. Those funds combined with the District’s continuing efforts at reducing expenses, finding efficiencies and drastically reducing programs will lower CPS’s expected FY 2011 deficit from a projected $427 million to a projected $370 million, Huberman said during a press conference at Nicholson Math and Science Elementary School, 6006 S. Peoria.
Officials repeated, however, that the District’s financial situation remains fluid because the Governor has not yet acted on a final state budget. And, they added, none of the funds restored by last week’s action include the more than $352 million the state still owes CPS in state aid payments for the current fiscal year.
“I am making this announcement today – before we have a final budget from Springfield – because some Chicago children go back to school in a handful of communities next week,” Huberman said. About a half-dozen of the District’s “multi-track” schools begin classes after the Independence Day weekend.
“As teachers report to those schools, they – along with principals and administrators – need to be able to plan accordingly.”
Along with restoration of board-funded kindergarten programs and maintaining elementary school class sizes, the ripple effect of the additional funds will also allow CPS to limit high school class sizes to no more than 33 students, Huberman said.
Still, the District’s budget shortfall likely will remain a significant burden that will require additional painful actions, Huberman said.
District officials originally forecast up to a billion dollar budget for FY 11. That amount was reduced to $600 million following state-approved pension relief. Meanwhile, CPS joined with parents, unions, community and faith leaders, elected officials and students in a statewide campaign to restore level education funding.
“I have said all along that the District will do whatever it takes to avoid laying off teachers and staff which will lead to increases in class size,” Huberman said. “And while I believe that announcement today does much to answer the concerns of parents and teachers, we will not be able to avoid all layoffs and cuts to CPS programs.”
The $57 million restored by the state is not by itself enough to keep class sizes down, he said. Program and staff cuts in addition to those that have already taken place will still be necessary.
“This week, we will fulfill our commitment to reduce the number of Central Office and Citywide positions by a net of 1,000,” Huberman said. “This includes the 200 layoffs that have occurred over the past two weeks. These are incredibly difficult decisions involving individuals whose commitment to our students was second to none.”
Huberman also noted that non-union Central Office and citywide employees have received no merit pay raises for the last two years. Every Central Office CPS employee making over $50,000 has taken 15 unpaid days, equating to a six percent pay cut. This is in addition to the six unpaid days taken last year. Further, CPS has been re-negotiating vendor and consultant contracts to trim costs and has also eliminated CEO and CPS board discretionary accounts.
Huberman further cautioned that closing the remaining deficit will have a painful impact at the local school level. The District is still facing cuts in magnet, gifted, enrichment and bilingual programs, and after-school activities. Funding for charter schools, transportation and maintenance, among other areas, will be affected as well.
Teacher layoffs could exceed 1,200 under current the current projected deficit, Huberman said. Yet some of these layoffs could be avoided if the Chicago Teachers Union and other bargaining units which represent CPS employees agree to concessions, actions which have become the norm in school districts all over the U.S.
“By simply eliminating these scheduled salary hikes, including the CTU’s 4 percent pay increase, we could save the District $135 million – more than one-third of our expected FY 11 deficit.
“Teachers are the heart and soul of our schools. They are our front line of contact with our children, and the key to improving their futures. Yet we have to be realistic about our current financial situation.”
“We remain hopeful we will be able to work with the CTU and other bargaining units to do what it takes to avoid harming out kids,” Huberman said. “We at CPS are doing everything we can to get through this challenging time. We are calling on our partners to do the same.”
Chicago Public Schools serves 417,855 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.