Whitney Young Magnet High School LSC votes unanimously to reject CPS budget imposed on the school... First Lady's Alma Mater challenges CPS attacks on local school budgets... CPS refuses to provide details of its fiscal 2014 budget, hiding behind an ongoing smokescreen of talking points

At a meeting on Tuesday morning, June 18, 2013, the Local School Council of Whitney Young Magnet High School, one of the top five high schools in Illinois and long one of the best high schools in Chicago, voted unanimously to reject the budget imposed on the schools by the administration of Barbara Byrd Bennett and the Chicago Board of Education. Whitney Young, the alma mater of hundreds of famous and powerful people -- including First Lady Michelle Obama -- has long been recognized as a leader in public education in Chicago.

Chicago's Whitney Young Magnet High School (above) has long been on of Chicago's top public schools and recognized as one of the best public high schools in the USA."Our Local School Council voted unanimously yesterday to reject the proposed budget by the administration because it does not adequately fund our school to maintain the standard of excellence for which we are known," Principal Joyce Kenner said in a statement emailed to parents. "Our budget was cut by just over 1.1 million dollars."

The cuts which are resonating across the city are being demanded by the CPS administration based on the claim that the school system is facing a "billion dollar deficit." As in the past, the Board of Education is refusing to disclose to the public the basis for the deficit claim, except in the most vague generalities. Where CPS officials have been specific, most of the reasons cited for the "deficit" are proving to be lies. For example, CPS is claiming that it will see a reduction in local revenues, when in fact CPS officials, including Barbara Byrd Bennett, know that local property tax revenues will increase in fiscal 2014 (which begins July 1, 2013). CPS budget officials are also making "deficit" estimates based on a longstanding practice of overestimating expenses and underestimating revenues that has long been discredited following a careful audit of the CPS financial books. The problem at the beginning of each fiscal year is that the audit that proves the "deficit" claims were lies only becomes public 18 months after the lies are told. This year's "billion dollar deficit" claims will not have been audited until 2014, and the Comprehensive Audited Financial Report (CAFR) for FY 2014 will not be presented to the Board of Education until the December 2014 meeting.

Once again, CPS officials are also demanding that the public accept their word about the school system's financial realities without providing the public with more than public relations talking points. Although the school system is required to produce a Proposed Budget and hold budget hearings before the end of each fiscal year (meaning, the Proposed Budget and hearings should have been held this month), the Board has once again said that it will not provide a Proposed Budget and schedule hearings until August. Since school begins in August, this means in practice that no one will actually be able to examine the Board's financial claims and compare them with previous years. Since the administration of Ron Huberman in 2010, CPS has claimed a "billion dollar deficit" -- only to end that fiscal year with a considerable surplus in its various reserve funds.

Whitney Young's administration informed parents of the LSC vote in the following message on June 19:

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Faculty,

As some of you may know, the Chicago Public Schools released preliminary school budgets last Friday. Our Local School Council voted unanimously yesterday to reject the proposed budget by the administration because it does not adequately fund our school to maintain the standard of excellence for which we are known. Our budget was cut by just over 1.1 million dollars.

By restructuring the Leadership Team, eliminating substitute teachers, not filling an Art position due to retirement, cutting a security position and having department chairpersons take on additional classes and/or instructional support duties, we were able to reduce the deficit to just under $800,000. While we are doing everything we can to limit the impact to the learning environment, there will be cuts to our teaching faculty and the services we have been able to previously provide for our students. Due to the budget cuts the following modifications are being recommended:

1) The Writing Center is eliminated.

2) All students will take six classes. We are exploring the feasibility of charging a $500 class fee for students who want to take a seventh class and a scholarship fund for students who receive fee waivers. We would use the fee money to “buy back” teachers to teach additional classes.

3) Reducing the number of world languages taught at our school.

4) Reducing faculty/staff positions by 8.5.

5) Cutting ACT Prep classes to before and after school only.

6) Streamlining our non-core classes which will reduce the number of electives offered in non-core areas such as business, world language, art, music, etc.

In addition to the impact on our instructional budget, our operations budget has also been reduced. It is my sincere hope that the Board of Education will find a way to increase our instructional budget so that we will not be forced to take these drastic measures. Conversations with staff/faculty that are in jeopardy of losing their jobs were painful. Like in years past, I am hopeful over the summer our budgets will reflect additional revenue and we will be able to restore our complete workforce.

Sincerely, Joyce D. Kenner, Principal


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