Students, Teachers Speak Out Over Budget Cuts, Bigger Classrooms
share this story
The fate of many state programs now lies in the hands of Governor Pat Quinn. After threatening to chop $1.3 billion from the education budget if a tax increase was not approved (which it wasn't) many students and teachers are fearing the worst--especially since some have already experienced layoffs and increased class sizes.
Though the budget was not approved until Tuesday night, schools statewide have already shown teachers the door--with the state owing local school districts more than $1 billion already.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman has not had to lay off teachers in the city yet, but has said he could be forced to increase class sizes by 25 percent due to budget constraints.
This week, both teachers and students held their own protests condemning the cuts and large class sizes. While teachers fear overcrowded and uncontrollable classrooms, students are missing their art and music programs--and angry with lawmakers for failing to act on the issue.
HuffPost Chicago contributor Alexandra Jaffe spoke to students at Monday's "Study-In" at Daley Plaza about how students were affected by the budget shortfall.
"I'm just trying to show people that I care about what happens to my school system, because no matter what this is going to affect my future," said 15-year-old Jones College Prep student Lou Engleman. "Because I'm a freshman, I'm going to be stuck with whatever decision my representative makes for the next four years of my life."
The Chicago Tribune reports that students from at least seven schools joined Monday's protest--an alternative to CPS "walk outs" that have happened in the past. Students who left school early to engage in activism found themselves in trouble, and figured after school would be a better time. The goal of the "Study In" was to for students to gather and do homework--to prove how much they care about their education.
Ollie Rios, a junior at Lane Tech College Prep, said she came out Monday fearing that her school's art and music programs would get the axe.
"We have a fantastic art program, music program, probably one of the best in the city of Chicago, and music teachers are being cut, art teachers are being cut, they're crucial to teaching our students," Rios said, adding that sophomore sports teams have been cut at her school as well.
On Tuesday, the teachers took to the streets as well. An estimated 4,000 protesters circled City Hall, slamming Huberman's proposal to increase classes to 35 students. The move could cause up to 3,000 Chicago Teachers Union layoffs.
The teachers are angry, and rightfully so.
On Thursday, the Chicago Reader published a story about the paychecks of CPS administrators that will probably lead to even more protests.
The story says that since current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan left CPS, Huberman has hired new administrators who make more than $100,000--making more than Duncan's.
Reader reporter Ben Joravsky summed up his frustration about the way CPS is managed:
I begrudge none of these individuals their salaries on a personal level. (Well, maybe a few.) What I have a hard time with is the cuts to sports, the firing of teachers, the class size hikes, and the horrendously inadequate programs in music, drama, and art. If I were in charge, I'd wouldn't let any of the bureaucrats make more than the highest-paid teacher, which is currently less than $120,000. By my count, 104 CPS bureaucrats are paid more than that right now.
The frustration on all levels comes down to one thing: the desire for Illinois' youth to have a quality education. Kenwood Academy Freshman Lynzie Jackson, 15, explained why she was at Monday's protest:
"There are so many things I could be, but if I'm not getting the adequate education in my lifetime for me to learn and absorb, I'm not going to be able to get all of those possibilities later on in life."
Check out photos from Monday and Tuesday's protests here: