Locals protest shrinking CPS cash for arts, physical ed

Chicago Public Schools staffer Carl Hurdlik speaks at the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council meeting last week. -Spencer Bibbs
Chicago Public Schools staffer Carl Hurdlik speaks at the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council meeting last week.

-Spencer Bibbs



Staff Writer

Nicole Losurdo, arts education coordinator of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Department of Arts Education, discussed the CPS Arts plan and part of the physical education (PE) plan last Wednesday at the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council meeting.

CPS has created plans to meet the state and city requirements to incorporate PE and the arts into the school day.

Surplus funds from tax increment financing funds (TIF) will be used to fund 84 physical education positions for high schools and 84 positions for arts educators in elementary and high schools.

Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, CPS will fund 75 percent of the salaries for the positions; the schools will fund 25 percent. The second year CPS and the schools will split the salary costs 50 percent each, and the third year the school must absorb the full amount of the salaries.

“We put the plan in place to ensure the stability of arts in the school,” Losurdo said.

In addition to the TIF funding, CPS is offering two grant programs that will fund arts programs in public schools.

The Arts Essential Fund is a grant that was automatically given to schools that received the creative schools certification of one to four. The complete ranking goes from one to five.

Through the fund, each school received $500 to $700 to cover basic supplies and equipment for instruction during the school day.

The Creative Schools Fund, which is a grant in partnership with The Ingenuity Inc., offers half a million dollars that will be distributed as 45 grants.

With the Arts Innovate grant, schools received up to $15,000, and with the Arts Advance grant schools received up to $10,000.

Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., was one of the first round of schools to receive the Arts Innovative grant. Kenwood was the only school in Hyde Park to receive the grant.

“The CAC is glad the CPS is bringing the importance of arts to the forefront,” said Kristy Ulrich Papczun, interim president of the HP-K CAC. “However, the members are upset because it is an unfunded mandate.”

CAC member Irami Osei-Frimpong said the CPS Arts Education Plan is not a serious solution to the problem.

“[Mayor Rahm] Emanuel’s mandate puts principals in an uncomfortable position because it doesn’t give principals the money needed to provide 120 minutes of art education a week,” Osei-Frimpong said. “This just gives the politicians a chance to say they made arts a requirement and put the hard decision of choosing which positions and programs should come in or be cut on the principal.”

“Instead of making the principals compete for the money, funding should be given to the schools to support the mandate,” said Osei-Frimpong.