West Side residents and activists are denouncing the proposed budget cuts by the Chicago Board of Education that they say will result in millions of dollars lost to their neighborhood schools.
The cuts amount to roughly $68 million from schools citywide, with the board set to take action on the proposed budget at its meeting on Aug. 28. The Austin-North Lawndale Elementary Network, which includes 27 elementary schools, is set to lose just over $15 million, according to the Chicago Public Schools’ own figures. The West Side High School Network, with 26 schools, would lose close to $24 million. West Siders, including many from Austin, give CPS officials an earful at a recent public hearing that took place at Malcolm X College.
“This ain’t your neighborhood — this is our neighborhood,” Brown told the board members said Jitu Brown, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, to the officials and crowd at the Aug. 3 hearing.
The session got off to a rocky start as CPS’ Chief Financial Officer Peter Rodgers began his presentation of the fiscal year 2014 budget. Several people objected, including the West Side organizer for community group Action Now, Ellyson Carter. The crowd began chanting for Rodgers to skip the presentation, saying, “We don’t want to hear your lies.”
Rodgers conceded, and the hearing continued without the presentation.
Dwayne Truss, a West Side organizer for Raise your Hand for Illinois Education, called out black leaders.
“How many black elected officials from the West Side do you see here?” he asked the crowd. When they shouted none, he said, “therein lies the problem.”
His wife, Cata, was next in line to speak. She said it was disrespectful that neither Mayor Rahm Emanuel nor the president of the Chicago Board of Education, David Vitale, were present.
The hearing lasted about an hour before the crowd started chanting, “walk out.”
Board members continued the hearing with a significantly diminished crowd—at least half of the attendees held their own meeting, led by Brown, in the lobby of MXC.
“We have to be unified, work together and struggle with each other,” he said,”