Monday, October 26, 2015

Chicago Public Schools Are in Danger

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I post this today because action must be taken. Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has not yet passed a workable budget for Illinois and specifically Chicago Public Schools. If a budget is not passed by early November public education in the city will be negatively impacted in ways that directly impact what and how our children will learn, teachers will lose their jobs and special education will be all but eliminated.

Principal Tim Devine of CPS high school Walter Payton speaks much more eloquently than I below is his open letter to the his students and teachers to take action now. Please read below and contact your representatives now. It is important to make our voices heard now.

Thank you,
-Elena

Students, Faculty, and Parents,
 
Thank you all for diving fully into the school year!  It is a joy to be among such dynamic, thoughtful, and purposeful individuals.  I write today to ring an alarm bell.  A serious matter of equity and adequacy of education funding is brewing and, if not addressed, will likely have serious ramifications for each CPS school, including Payton. 
 
The Context.  As you are likely aware, the CPS passed a budget in August whose revenue is $480 million short of expenditures.  CPS leadership has consistently stated in recent months that if the Governor and General Assembly in Springfield don't act by November, CPS will start making plans to cut 5,000 teacher positions by the start of 2nd semester (note: each teacher roughly costs $100,000 in salary and benefits).  This is a matter of equity and adequacy because:
  • Illinois is 49th out of 50 states in its spending on public education
  • CPS receives $31 from the state per student for teacher pensions.  The state pays every other district in the state $2,226 per student for teacher pension.  The result is that CPS has to make up that budget differential by taking funds away from classrooms where other school districts can keep funds squarely focused on matters of teaching and learning. 
This is a matter of equitable access to quality education for CPS students whom the General Assembly and Governor treat differently by allocating fewer dollars to support CPS education than other students.
 
The Impact.  There are currently ~23,000 teachers in the CPS, so losing 5,000 of those teachers would be a 22% cut.  If the 22% teacher cut translates to schools, Payton would likely stand to lose ~12 teachers (out of 56 classroom teachers; NB: CPS has not told us that 12 teachers will be cut, this number emerges from the calculation of 5,000 teachers to be cut / 23,0000 teachers in CPS = 22%, which is then multiplied by the 56 classroom teachers we have at Payton...the total anticipated cut would render 12 teachers).  If these budget cuts come to fruition, then a large number of the 236 courses offered at Payton would be cut (perhaps 22%?).  Broadening the lens beyond Payton, every CPS school would be in a similar, dire situation.  If the decision-makers in Springfield don't act in the next handful of weeks, then CPS will start working with individual schools in November to identify the positions to be cut.  The positions would be vacated around the beginning of 2nd semester, thus requiring the elimination of courses mid-year (likely to be honors and Advanced Placement-level elective courses, as we would need to retain graduation-required courses).  Students and teachers would have new programs for 2nd semester, class sizes would balloon, and some of our exceptional faculty members would lose their jobs.    
 
The Action.  As you likely know, that state is still without a budget (the fiscal year started on July 1st).  There seems to be little urgency by our elected officials to effectively address this, but our precarious situation in CPS is growing more and more urgent.  It is warrantable for us to now use our voices to call upon our elected officials- Bruce Rauner (our Governor; contact here), Mike Madigan (our Speaker of the House;mmadigna@housedem.state.il.us)John Cullerton (our President of the Senate; contact here), and the state senator and state representative of your district (find them here)-to act on the matter of creating an equitable and adequate education funding in Illinois.  We will set aside time in extended Advisory tomorrowfor students to craft notes to these decision-makers whose inaction puts us in a very precarious situation.  I ask adults on campus to also reach out to your state elected officials to strongly encourage them to act.  Of course, you are welcome/encouraged to reach out to any other elected officials who can influence a change of budget fortunes for CPS.  In addition to this, I ask students and parents to reach out to your peers in other CPS schools to have them also ask for decision-makers to tend to this budget crisis in short order.  Again, there is little urgency to this matter on the part of elected persons and we need to help them understand that their inaction will, in short order, have serious and inequitable consequences for students throughout CPS.     
 
Of course, there are many other actions that students, faculty, and parents throughout CPS can take and I encourage you to do so (get the matter trending on Twitter and other social media platforms, ask for a meeting with your elected officials, etc.).  Of course, I will continue to use my voice to advocate.
 
Thank you for all that you do and for all that you are.
 
Sincerely,
 
Mr. Devine/Tim

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