Though this news broke a few days ago, it is still important for our community to address the inequity of funding in our public schools. HNA has long advocated for equal funding of neighborhood schools, the use of TIF money to fund schools, and a fervent opposition to the expansion of charter schools. The most recent round of budget cuts and layoffs will negatively affect almost every school in Hermosa as well as several other schools in the City's most impoverished areas.
Currently, Kelvyn Park School stands to lose a little over 15% of its budget, or about $794,200. This cut in the budget will result in 11 staff layoffs for the 2017-18 school year, seven teachers and four Extra Support Personnel (ESPs). William P. Nixon Elementary, one of Hermosa's two neighborhood elementary schools, is receiving a $282,292 budget cut. This is on top of substantial budget cuts in 2016, 2015, and 2014. This will result in another cut in staff positions and a reduction in art spending, after school spending, and reduced ability to invest in technology for our new Common Core curriculum.
In total, Hermosa schools will lose 41 staff members, 25 of whom are teachers. Kelvyn Park School and Foreman High School are the hardest hit, with 14 total teacher layoffs (seven per school). Even more unsettling is the fact that the largest budget cuts and layoffs will affect Chicago's poorest children. Thomas Kelly High School is losing the most staff: 11 teachers and 10 ESPs, the most of any school in Chicago. TKHS also happens to be in one of Chicago's poorer neighborhoods, Brighton Park. Dunbar Vocational Career Academy in Bronzeville is losing eight teachers and two ESPs. Schools in West Rogers Park, Little Village, and East Garfield Park will lose 30 staff members compared to one total staff loss (one ESP position) at the City's highest rated schools in the wealthiest neighborhoods (Walter Payton, Northside College Prep, and Lincoln Park High School).
The budget cuts are primarily due to a change in Federal and State funding, for Title 1 (Federal funds for schools with high poverty) and for Federal Special Education (SPED) Funding. State funding (SGSA) for improvised schools also declines.
According to a DNAInfo article, "While schools will get $200 more per student during the 2017-18 school year than they did for the 2016-17 school year, the overall CPS budget will shrink by about $43 million...." Also, despite an increase in the special education student population at most schools, many are receiving less money for SPED than previous years. Special Education modifications and accommodations are a federal mandate so that means more will be cut from core instruction.
The current CPS budget relies on a $250 million payment from the Illinois State government that was just vetoed by Governor Rauner. CPS has not made any comment on how the hole from the state will be filled; instead, only days after releasing the 2017-18 budget, CPS also released a list of employee layoffs and how those will impact individual schools.
It is important, now more than ever, for all Hermosa residents (and residents all over the city) to get involved with individuals and organizations that work to promote equitable and fully-funded public education for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or geographic location in Chicago. You can reach out to organizations like Raise Your Hand IL, The Chicago Teachers Union, or Stand for Children (to name a few) and get involved in advocating for students in Chicago and Illinois. You can also call, email, or write to ALL of your elected officials and demand that they support equitable public education for all students. Lastly, ensure you are registered to vote so you can support candidates of your choice in all local and national elections.