Chicago's schools have closed for the summer, but many principals aren't feeling any relief. They're grappling with huge budget cuts because the system faces a $1 billion deficit. Parents and teachers are anxious and angry about what they'll find when schools open in the fall.
Some principals have floated plans for trims to core subjects such as English and reading, as well as art, music ... even recess. Some have tried to steer a different course: Whitney Young Magnet High School proposed to charge students a fee if they want to take a seventh-period class.
This bad financial news is trickling out now because principals received preliminary budgets a couple of weeks ago. Principals are scrambling to shape plans under a new school-based budgeting system that hands them more power to set educational priorities but, in many schools, less money to fulfill them.
Several factors drive the deficit, but the biggest one is a spike in pension payments. A three-year break that allowed Chicago Public Schools to skip pension contributions is ending. CPS had to pay $196 million into the teacher's pension fund in the fiscal year that ended June 30. This year, CPS' contribution rises to $612 million.