Local school budgets shrunk

Staff Writer

With only one week to figure out how to stretch smaller budgets at schools with increasing populations, public schools in Hyde Park are hosting meetings and inviting the community to discuss and review their preliminary budgets.

Since Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) announcement of school closings in May, there seems to be a race to finalize enrollment — and the budget — for the next school year. Families had until May 31 to enroll their children into welcoming schools and now administrators and local school councils (LSC) have until June 21 to decide the best way to use the money they are receiving for the 2013-2014 school year. Schools across the city were given their budget amounts on Thursday, June 13.

After including it as one of more than 50 schools slated for closure, CPS gave Canter Middle School, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave., an additional school year, allowing its current 7th graders to graduate 8th grade from the school. That caused Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., and Bret Harte, 1556 E. 56th St., elementary schools to lose their welcoming school designation and the additional funding that came with it. Despite the changes, the two schools still have to add 7th grade next year and 8th the following year to welcome the students who are graduating from Shoesmith Elementary School, 1330 E. 50th St., so they will have to figure out how to do more with less.

“With the launch of our 7th grade program, I hope we get some more money,” said Gordon Mayer, chairman of the Ray LSC, after the school’s LSC meeting last Thursday.

Ray’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year was $5,630,816. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 is $5,219,796. The school also lost its magnet cluster program and two teaching positions.

“Regardless of what we get, the Bret Harte family will do what we can to start 7th grade and welcome new students in,” said Darryl Williams, Bret Harte LSC chairman.

Bret Harte’s LSC meeting was canceled on June 11 and moved to June 18 to give the principal time to work on its preliminary budget.

Kenwood Academy High School is also receiving a $1.7 million cut, according to a release from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The CTU said that schools across the city will lose teaching, counseling, library and clerical positions. With this tighter budget the schools will also have to find ways to meet expenses once covered by CPS as critical as substitute teachers and as mundane as toilet paper.