Parent testimonies from July 2015 Board Meeting

My name is Victoria Benson LSC Chair from Portage Park Elementary

Our School will be taking over a $700,000 budget cut this year and we will be losing seven teaching positions.

This is in addition to the $900,000 we lost 2 years ago and Just in case you weren’t keeping track that means in less than 3 years we have lost nearly TWO MILLION DOLLARS.  This amount is about 25% of our original budget.

The cuts have “officially “effected our classrooms, we will have larger class sizes, class sizes that will be in the 30’s, with little money left for instructional materials. We also will be losing one of our specials, little money for afterschool activities, and no money for after school sports programs that our children have come to love.

I am also concerned about the late budget, teachers will not know who is being cut until the first week of August, and then teachers will need to be re-arranged throughout the school. Some teachers will have little to no time to prepare for a grade level that they have never taught. And with the Common Core Standards, and No books, they have little support to get ready to teach that grade level. How can we support children when there is no support for teachers? It will be trial and error. Once again our children will be used as guinea pigs in an experiment known as student based budgeting. This is done with a declining enrollment and rapid charter proliferation.

In addition to asking Springfield for relief CPS should take a step back, and find solutions to the problem that CPS is also responsible for... This downfall was a group effort which includes all politicians. We must turn the page, and have urgency when providing high quality education for all children in Chicago.  Allowing anymore cuts to our classroom is irresponsible when CPS still has the FACE Department, Incubation Dept and over a billion dollars in contracts for consultants making exorbitant fees. CPS could have put a cap on individual school budget cuts and cut further in those areas. The board approved questionable tech products and PD contracts while cutting special education aides and elementary sports coaches.

We need to think for the future...  Restore some of this funding to schools, cut in the appropriate areas, and push for the revenue so our students can reach their full potential.

By a show of hands, how many of you have a child with a disability? Today’s Chicago Tribune reported,

The district says it can save about $42 million by modifying services for the roughly50,000 special needs students it serves. About 540 educators, most of them paraprofessionals who assist special education teachers, could lose their jobs under the plan. Another 200 or so vacant positions would not be filled.” Special needs parents please contact CPS and State Legislators. Thank you

Cassie Creswell, More than a Score (and RYH Board Member)

First, on behalf of the More Than A Score coalition, I’d like to say that we’re very pleased to see the draft of a revised promotion and retention policy being circulated.  The current policy has been both discriminatory and costly in terms of dollars and life outcomes. One of our coalition members, Parents United for Responsible Education, has been pushing for an end to test-score based retention for two decades.  We hope that what is finally approved this fall closely resembles the draft.

I’m primarily here today though to talk about contract spending. Millions of dollars of cuts have been announced in recent weeks, including special ed assistants, sports coaches, building engineers. CPS is in deeper financial straits than ever.

And yet millions of dollars were approved here at the board just last month for outside corporate vendors and millions more are on the agenda today. Many of these products and services are ineffective or wasteful. For example:

  • $20M for vendors of Common Core math instructional materials. Several of the textbook series that  approved were rated by the Gates Foundation as not aligned with the Common Core.  One of vendors,, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, your own IG said you should stop doing business with two years ago.
  • Also in June: more than $6M of contracts for assessments and ed tech, including another $1.6M for Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify corporation to test K-2---using a dubious assessment long criticized by early childhood experts.  This is on top of $9M Amplify has been paid since 2013.

This month’s agenda includes another $6M for assessments and ed tech:

  • Another $3.1M for NWEA---on top of the $10M they’ve received from CPS in the last 3 years. NWEA will not release its technical reports; a clear violation of professional testing standards.
  • $250K for LEAP Innovations---money that will come out of school level budgets. So schools will be paying for the benefit of having their students used as unpaidsoftware testers for products that will eventually be sold back to them.
  • And finally, another $2M for Pearson, on top of the almost $40M they’ve received in the last three years.

These numbers may sound small compared to the billion that’s being borrowed, but the schools in my neighborhood of Logan Square are set to lose at least $4M. Who really needs this money? Pearson, NWEA, Rupert Murdoch, or the students in schools around the city that are starving for teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, coaches and even copy paper and hand soap?

Roberta Salas, Murphy LSC Chair (RYH Board member)

Good morning.  My name is Roberta Salas.  I’m the LSC chair at Murphy Elementary and I’m on the board of Raise Your Hand for IL public education, a parent led coalition that advocates for quality public education.  Our group started 5 years ago when CPS was in Springfield negotiating a pension holiday. Since then, there has been little progress made to address the structural deficit that faces this district, which has resulted in another round of devastating budget cuts to over 400 of our district schools.

For the past few years, we have watched the leadership of the state erode funding and CPS, in turn, erode funding for district run neighborhood schools while supporting the growth and expansion of charter schools even as we watched the massive school closings process that was supposedly done to address an under-utilization crisis. Defunding one type of school to give to another is clearly not a policy that attracts and retains families in Chicago. Student based budgeting with declining enrollment and inadequate funding leaves our most vulnerable students in schools that simply cannot provide a high-quality well-resourced education. We need all parties to work together – CPS, the city and the state - to find the revenue to fund our schools properly.  I can tell you from experience as a parent of children currently enrolled at our neighborhood district run school how valuable this school is to our family and neighborhood.  Let me be clear to Ms. Hines, not sending my kids to a charter school will not help the current funding problems to neighborhood schools.

Our group of volunteers has been able to identify ways to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of unnecessary spending on contracts and consulting fees as well as ways to increase revenue by the city and the state.  I hope that you will decide to cut some of these contracts before you cut special ed and other important programs.  I also hope that this new configuration of a board can find a way to reverse the current course and start leading this once powerful institution to a positive financial solution and provide a quality public school education to ALL families in Chicago.

I have hand-outs from Raise Your Hand that show you some of our solutions.