King High School budget hearings clarify how public feels about Chicago Public Schools while budget chiefs refuse to explain why there was no publicity

The most interesting statement on Monday evening Nov. 5th, 2012 at King College Prep High School came from CPS Chief Financial Officer, Peter Rogers. Rodger said that the school closing list was in a “fact finding stage.“ And, he didn’t say any more about it. Most people there agree that he was very nice and spoke to everyone’s questions — but was vague on a lot of details.

CPS didn't make much effort to publicize the November 5 budget hearings, one of which was held in the auditorium at King High School Above, from the King HS hearing, Left to right: Peter Rodgers, current CPS CFO, Greg Volan the Education Budget Planning Department, Matt Walter from Capital Budget Planning. An audience speaker asked why CPS didn't let people know about the meeting, for example by doing "a robo call to the homes" like they did during the strike. But, obviously CPS did very little to promote the Budget Hearing. They didn't want questions from the public.
In the opinion of most of those observing and participating, it was an unreal meeting. Only a dozen speakers stood up to make statements. There were only 25 people were in the room, including three well suited men at the stage in the King College Prep High School. Representing CPS were Peter Rogers, CFO, Matt Walter from Capital Budget Dept., and Greg Volan from Education Budget Planning Dept.

In attendance were several concerned parents and staff from Dunbar High School. Mrs. Dorothy Dawson questioned why they removed all of their shop classes. She gave a list of what was taken out. On top of all the budget cuts at Dunbar, she couldn’t understand why they (CPS) filled in the auditorium orchestra pit with concrete.

Another speaker questioned the $12 million cuts on “other budget items”. She wanted more details because that was a “lot of money with no explaining.”

Another speaker explained (with documents in hand) how the achievement gap between black and white students was growing. She reasoned that CPS, run by business professionals, was not putting the money where it needed to go, but wasting it on testing. The contractors are making a lot of money and it doesn’t help our children. Even our Kindergartner students are being given a new test; Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago—REACH test. She wanted CPS to save money by eliminating over testing.

Samantha Coleman, noted that Culture of Calm program was offered to a special list of schools in need (now eliminated) -- but now there is no current list.. She wanted to offer her special services (support for young women) to schools in need but CPS (the Positive Behavior and Support Department) doesn’t have a list. She noted that the money to pay for this emotional help service was going to be a big problem for the schools.

Statement by Dave Vance

I welcomed Mr. Rodgers to his new job of Chief Financial Officer, but noted that he was the 5th CFO in four years. I stated that he probably couldn’t name all the Financial Officers. But he could name all of Chief Executive Officers since Arne Duncan. They included Ron Huberman, Terry Mazany, JC Brizard and now Barbara Byrd-Bennett. I explained something is wrong to have that many department heads changing in two years. These are the top leaders in charge of our schools. What does this look like to the public? Who is running our 600 schools? No one at the top has experience or knows the schools they are in command of.

I stated that, to the public “it looks like instability”; that CPS professionals don’t know what they are doing. Good luck Mr. Rogers.

Then I raised a question: Maybe this is why Moody’s lowered the bond rating? The bond rating was lowered in Sept. two months ago. Mr. Rogers nodded his head, to say, Yes. (What he said in response I don’t remember.)

The changing of department heads so frequently should be an alarm bell. The public remembers when CPS closed (and turned around) schools it claimed were failing. Now, the criteria is the "empty seats." Is this the real reason; the empty seats? The public doesn’t trust CPS.

I also explained with first hand knowledge how JN Thorp in South Chicago is being starved for funds. CPS reduced Thorp’s school budget by $250,000 this year and increased Learn Charter school by over $800,000. I explained that parents see this as a privatizing plan to starve us and promote the charter school.

I also testified that when Learn opened its doors Sept. of 2010 they received $2,000,000 in funding. One million came from Ophra Winfrey and a second million from Arne Duncan, the new Secretary of Education.

In summary I was clear that CPS doesn’t want to tell us they have a privatizing plan, but to us it is very clear. Follow the money.


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