CPS Passes Budget Amid Protests

Protestors renew call for elected school board

Two similar school fights were happening in Chicago on Wednesday, one on the streets with protestors boycotting recent school closures and the other inside CPS headquarters where board members considered the 2014 budget.

The budget passed, despite parents who showed up to the meeting to display their opposition.

CPS officials say the budget cuts its billion-dollar deficit and pumps more money into school programs, but the Chicago Teacher's Union has another take.

"It will mean dramatic increases in class sizes, it will mean cuts to art programming, it'll mean cuts at the classroom level which are the heart of our schools," CTU VP Jesse Sharkey said.

Despite a passionate plea from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, earlier in the day protesters boycotted classes in order to demonstrate against the recent school closures.

The protest was scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It also happened at about the time the Chicago Board of Education voted on a $5.58 billion budget and came amid another call by protesters for an elected school board.

"These folks need to know that these closings and the defunding of schools impacts children," parent Lindsay Smith said. "They need to hear it, and the only way they are going to hear it is if we come out here."

CPS sixth grader Fiona Rowlands was one of the students who did not go to school in order to support the group's fight.

"I feel like I have to be out here because I want to support the schools who don't have enough money," she said.

Emanuel on Tuesday asked parents to ignore calls for a school boycott and send their kids to class on Wednesday as planned.

"You have a disagreement? The court has spoken to that. You don’t like something? There’s another way to speak of it," Emanuel said. "Do not take the kids out of school and harm them and their future. Do not use the kids that way. They don’t have a day to waste when it comes to their education."

Michelle Young of the group Action Now said the boycott makes a statement that parents are standing up for the rights of their children.

"I feel [Chicago Public Schools] is using our children," she said. "They're using them as pawns. We're asking for much. We're asking for a new, elected school board that has our children's education at heart."

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the boycott sets a bad example for children.

"Removing children from the classroom for even one day is unacceptable," Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. "Our students belong in the classroom with their teachers getting the instruction they need to be on a path to a successful and bright future."

Mother Katrina Martin, who has four children in CPS, insisted Tuesday night that all of her kids will be in classes. She said she feels a boycott will do more harm than good.

"What would make a difference? If we keep all of them out of school for that one day to attend ... what are they doing to get out of it?

Her son agreed.

"I need to be in school to get everything out the way and get my word done," he said.

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