Large turnout at final hearing on 2010-2011 budget at Corliss High School August 19, 2010

By 7:15 p.m. on August 19, 2010, there were more than 150 people in the auditorium of Corliss High School, at 103rd and Cottage on Chicago's far South Side, as the testimony began in the final budget hearing on the Chicago Board of Education's "Proposed Budget 2010 - 2011." The crowd was as angry as the other two days, when dozens of speakers spoke against the Board of Education's priorities at the annual hearings (Lane Tech, August 17; Westinghouse High School, August 18).

The 156 people present in the audience at 7:15 p.m. included teachers and former teachers, parents, children, and a number of community residents who had strong words about the way CPS should be managing its finances. As usual, not one member of the Chicago Board of Education was there to hear citizens discuss how the Board should be spending the $6.5 billion in the proposed budget. Also truant was Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who appointed the seven millionaire members of the school board, and Ron Huberman, the "Chief Executive Officer" of the sprawling school system, which has approximately 410,000 students in more than 680 schools.

A handful of the school system's highest paid administrators were present, including the newest CPS Executive, "Deputy Chief Financial Officer" Malanie Shaker. Ms. Shaker was subbing for Chief Financial Office Diana Ferguson, who had presided over the two earlier sessions on the budget, at Lane Tech High School on August 17 and at Westinghouse High School on August 18.

Even though the crowd included a number of children and parents (no teachers) who said they wanted more charter schools on the South Side, as the night went on and more and more public school teachers talked about the problems faced in the public schools, it was not clear whether the group of charter "supporters" were solidly behind the charter option. When asked who organized them and brought them to the hearing, they refused to answer.

Among the many who testified during the hearing were Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson, veteran teacher (and Substance reporter) Theresa Daniels, and this reporter. At times the testimony became very emotional as teachers recounted how the Chicago Board of Education had terminated their tenured careers with barely any notice.

One of the points made during the evening was that CPS continues to expand its executive ranks, even as Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman claims that he is thinning central office. Three years ago, for example, the CPS budget office had a Chief Financial Officer and budget director. On the night of the Corliss hearing, CPS had a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Budget Officer, and a Deputy Chief Budget Officer.


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