By Emily Gray Brosious | Originally published at Gapers Block | June 19, 2013
Dozens of activists protested and gathered toilet paper donations outside the Chase Auditorium in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, at an event where Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett spoke with Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold about her plans for the CPS. The event protesters gathered outside of was sponsored by ComEd and the Tribune.
Protesters blasted the plan for deep budget cuts that would put many schools in untenable situations. Demonstrators collected toilet paper donations as a nod to the fact that these budget cuts would leave many schools stretched so thin they’d be unable to pay for even the most basic of supplies–including janitorial supplies like toilet paper.
According to the Tribune, Byrd-Bennett is going to look into reports of cuts to funding for toilet paper.
The Chicago Board of Education announced its new budget last Friday aimed at reducing a deficit of nearly $1 billion. On that same day it was announced 850 CPS employees will be laid off due to school closings and turnarounds, including 420 teachers. School budgets will also be cut (on a sliding scale based on factors like enrollment) at schools across the city.
Principals, who have been given total autonomy over their budgets for the first time, will have to make unprecedented cutbacks. According to a statement from the Chicago Teachers Union, at least 20 schools will see significant budget reductions, with some schools getting hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars less than previous years.
CTU officials point out that principals will be forced to cut costs from somewhere, and because school employee salaries account for the bulk of operational costs many jobs are on the line. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey predicts these cutbacks could result in 1,000 to 2,000 additional teacher layoffs.
Many city residents see these cuts to education essentials like teachers and toilet paper as counterproductive to building an effective education system. At Tuesday’s protest, one demonstrator named Mark said the district simply couldn’t slash school budgets and simultaneously expect student performance and education quality to improve.
Speaking at the City Club of Chicago Tuesday, CTU President Karen Lewis offered an alternative to school budget cuts, and called on Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take advantage of existing new revenue streams like fair taxation, renegotiation of swap dealsbetween CPS and predatory bank lenders, reallocation of tax increment financing, and revival of a Financial Transaction Tax bill in Springfield to close their budget gap. She urged the mayor’s office to join with CTU to lobby for these progressive finance reforms, rather than sourcing revenue from strapped school budgets.
“Continuing CPS policies and budgetary priorities that disinvest in neighborhood schools have failed to serve most students and need to be discontinued,” Lewis said.