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Students Walk Out Of Class To Protest CPS Budget Cuts

CHICAGO (CBS) -- About 200 students walked out of a North Side high school on Friday, to protest the financial crisis the Chicago Public Schools system is facing.

Lincoln Park High School students dubbed their rally "Fed-Up Friday." They walked out of third period classes, carrying protest signs, and chanting, demanding more money for education.

CPS cut more than $375,000 from the school's budget this year, after the Chicago Teachers Union turned down the district's four-year contract proposal.

The students said Friends Of Lincoln Park High Schoo, a parent-run volunteer group, raised funds to help fill the gap, but other public schools haven't been so lucky.

"It's time for a change, and that starts with, one, the unelected school board of Chicago; and, two, every elected official who doesn't put us first, because we are the future, and if we don't get it, shut it down," senior Nidalis Burgos said.


Students said the school encouraged them to write letters to state lawmakers and the governor instead of walking out, but that did not stop them from going through with Friday's protest.

"We've done that in the past, and it clearly didn't work," junior Adia Njie said.

Students blamed Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the mayor's hand-picked school board, and Gov. Bruce Rauner for the district's financial crisis.

"Our governor is slashing our budget. Our board members are appointed by the mayor, who was elected; the mayor who hides things from our city, the mayor who sugarcoats things," Burgos said.

Burgos said the mayor's appointed school board leaves students without any representation in how their schools are run.

"There's no possible way to change what's happening in Chicago unless we change the people in office. They don't care about us. They give $750,000 land away for $1 and tell us that it's our fault we don't have an education. We love our education, and that's why we're doing this," Burgos said.

In all, CPS cut school budgets by $120 million this week, $20 million more than CEO Forrest Claypool had originally proposed last week. In addition, the district has said it will eliminate the pension pickup for teachers, saving $65 million this year, and $130 million a year going forward.

The Chicago Teachers Union has called the district's cuts "an act of war," and has said it will file a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board over the district's move to end the pension pickup.

Since the 1980s, the district has paid 7 percentage points of the 9 percent pension contribution teachers are required to pay, but CPS has said a provision in the contract that expired last June means the district does not have to keep paying it after the contract ended.

The CPS budget for this year relied on $480 million in state funding to help shore up the teachers pension fund, but with the Illinois General Assembly and the governor gridlocked over the state budget, and taking no action on additional funding for Chicago schools, district officials have said they had no choice but to make drastic cuts.

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