Budget squeeze in Chicago schools pushes some classes online

LSC members: Dyett High School, unable to pay for teachers, says art, music, Spanish, and gym will be held online.

July 23, 2013

Members of the Local School Council at Dyett High School say their principal has advised them he can’t pay for enough teachers with the budget he was issued from Chicago Public Schools.

That means many classes—including art, music, Spanish, social studies, and even gym— will be online.

“I signed up for a public school to be taught by a teacher, not by a computer,” said senior Diamond McCullough, who joined others in denouncing the online offerings. “For Spanish, I could barely get Spanish from a teacher right there. So it’s gonna be harder trying to get Spanish from a computer,” McCullough said.

Local school council member Steven Guy says a new budgeting system the district is using might give principals more autonomy, but he said that matters little when the total bestowed on schools is inadequate.

“It’s like me, giving you a car with a quarter tank of gas, telling you it’s your job to drive to St. Louis and back. And if you can’t do it, then it’s your fault,” said Guy.

CPS could not immediately confirm the changes at Dyett.

Dyett’s budget problems are compounded because the school is being phased out—essentially a long, slow school closing. This year, it will only have juniors and seniors. LSC members said they expected to lose four or five teachers due to the fact the school is shrinking. Instead, they are losing 13.

Students, parents and community activists from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization made their statements outside nearby Overton Elementary School, one of 50 schools the Chicago Board of Education voted to shutter in a historic school closings vote in May.

A number of Overton parents said they still had not given up on the idea that the school should remain open. In the most recent round of state standardized tests, Overton, which is now shuttered and half empty, outscored the receiving school students are being sent to, Mollison.

In a written opinion last spring,  the judge who heard testimony on Overton’s closing called attention to the fact that Mollison did not seem to perform much better than Overton.

“This is tantamount, using a food metaphor, to the promise of an omelet with a crisp waffle,” wrote Carl McCormick. “Then what is delivered are broken eggs, whose contents are oozing out and a burnt pancake.”

A number of Overton parents said they still did not know where their children would attend school on August 26.

Many of the students gathered for the press conference had seen both their grammar school and their high school shuttered for poor performance.