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Chicago School Board Approves $5.4B CPS Budget

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously today to approve a controversial $5.4 billion budget for the Chicago Public Schools, including a property tax hike to fund teacher pensions.

The CPS spending plan for the upcoming school year includes more borrowing, and a $342 million property tax hike.

"The budget we are presenting today does include a property tax levy to help fund teacher pensions, and we are very grateful to our Chicago taxpayers for shouldering this additional load, and for our leaders in Springfield for acknowledging that we must improve education funding for children living in poverty," CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said.

The school district and the Chicago Teachers Union have yet to agree on a new contract, but the CPS budget is dependent on concessions the union previously rejected in earlier contract talks.

Teachers and parents picketed outside CPS headquarters in a driving rain during the meeting, to protest a budget they claim doesn't have enough funding, and includes too many cuts and layoffs. They said the budget the mayor's hand-picked board plans to approve is a hatchet job that will hurt teachers and students.


Teacher Andrea Calhoun passionately argued schools should get millions of dollars in tax increment financing money that often goes to developers, or is unspent.

"We insist on TIF funds being given back to our schools. Stop disinvesting in our school communities," she said.

Inside the meeting, Chicago Board of Education chair Frank Clark argued there aren't as many TIF dollars available as people believe.

"TIF funds, to the extent that we get any TIF dollars, are one-time options. They're not permanent. We need to solve our problems on a permanent basis," he said.

Claypool said CPS has tried to prevent budget cuts from affecting the classrooms, but outside the meeting, teacher Carlos Carillo expressed outrage at 1,000 staff layoffs announced earlier this month.

"I feel really deceived right now that they told us there were not going to be any budget cuts, or it wasn't going to affect the classroom, but in fact it did affect teachers and class sizes too," he said.

Carillo said his job was cut at his school, and special education programs have been affected by budget cuts as well.

"These students are struggling to simply learn how to read. They need more help, and the mayor does not care about them," he said.

CPS has said the 1,000 layoffs announced in August were not the result of budget cuts, but declining enrollment at schools.

The Civic Federation has criticized the CPS budget, because it relies on $215 million from the state. The fiscal watchdog group has said that funding might not materialize because of the ongoing dysfunction in Springfield.

The teachers' union has called for a forensic audit of the district's finances.

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