Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday defended the choices he has made on the Chicago Public Schools budget, but did not directly address reports that neighborhood schools will face deeper cuts during the coming year than charters or other kinds of schools.
CPS estimated classroom cuts in the upcoming budget to be about $68 million. But the Tribune found that the cuts to district-run neighborhood schools is more than $100 million for instruction and operations. CPS came up with its lower figure by including budget increases at charter and contract schools that in many cases saw enrollment rise and seats added.
Asked about the differences Tuesday, Emanuel initially laid the blame with Springfield's failure to deal with the school district's unfunded pension obligations. "Look, we have a challenge. That challenge is pensions," Emanuel said.
The mayor also pointed out two charter schools were shut down recently for academic shortcomings, saying that's "never been done before, because they failed academically."
And though Raise Your Hand, a parent group critical of the school district, said the new budget has forced 92 schools to cut art positions, 54 to cut music teachers, 58 to cut physical education positions and 40 to fire librarians, Emanuel sought to focus Tuesday on his push to increase full-day kindergarten and the longer school day. "That's what we're going to be doing throughout the city and all our schools," he said.
The mayor's comments came at a far South Side job and mentoring program for at-risk youths, where he also talked about his decision to accept Larry Huggins' resignation from the Metra board amid questions about Huggins' attempts to secure work connected to the Englewood Flyover project for black construction firms.
Emanuel said Huggins didn't lose the mayor's confidence, despite the controversy surrounding him and the Metra board as a whole. "That's not what I said, and that's not what I believe," Emanuel said. "I believe that one, Metra needs to hit the restart, refresh button, and given everything that was going on, the best thing to do was for Larry Huggins, who has served the city admirably over many years in different ways, to step aside and so the Metra board can hit the restart button," he said.
Huggins' resignation came as an investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding the agency's decision to give CEO Alex Clifford a $718,000 severance package. Huggins was among those named in a memorandum this year by Clifford, who said Huggins carried a patronage request for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and interfered with contracts.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun