New CPS Budget: Teachers Boo New Spending Plan During Public Hearing

Teachers and community school activists did not respond well to the 2012-13 Chicago Public Schools budget proposal outlined at a public hearing Wednesday, which includes emptying the district's cash reserve fund and radically reducing teacher raises for next year.

Booing, hissing and shouts of "Why?" and "For the 1 percent!" were hurled at CPS Chief Administrator Tim Cawley by the audience of teachers and community activists, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The new budget drains reserves from Chicago's public school coffers, but invests an extra $76 million in charter schools, a contentious issue within the Chicago Teachers Union.

"I'm not surprised by your reaction," Cawley said, while explaining that the budget balancing act relies on teachers accepting a 2 percent raise, significantly lower than requested by the union, according to Chicago Tribune. "I promise I won't shout at you when you talk. I would hope you would extend me the same courtesy."

Earlier this year, CPS projected plans to open 60 new charter schools within the next five years. But teachers at the city's public schools say that money should be reinvested in dilapidated public facilities first.

"The board recently announced an 85 percent cut in capital spending, and that happens at the same time that we have schools without playgrounds, that we have schools that are scheduled to meet this summer with no air conditioning, that we have 160 schools without libraries. We feel there is an insufficient plan for that," Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said in May.

Chicago teachers have been engaged in a nasty battle with the district for months since Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through his longer school day initiative, extending work hours for staff at several schools without offering adequate compensation, the Chicago Teachers Union has argued. Funding reallocation that teachers say favors the experimental new charter model has also been a source of conflict within the school system.

In early June, the teachers union voted to authorize a strike if they cannot reach an amenable contract deal with the city this summer.

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