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Chicago Board of Education Will Present Plan Next Month To Close $215M Budget Gap

The Chicago Board of Education said Wednesday that it will vote next month on an amended budget. 

The need to pass an amended budget comes after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a plan that would’ve sent $215 million to the cash-strapped city school district. Chicago Public Schools had budgeted that money to help make its annual pension payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

Board president Frank Clark said there will be public hearings on the new budget Feb. 13 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

The district already announced four furlough days for all staff to shore up $35 million.

“The four furlough days are an outrage” said Michael Brunson, recording secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Other topics at the meeting focused on the state of the district’s school buildings. 

Groups of community activists from Englewood, Chinatown, Back of the Yards and Midway came to push for new school facilities. 

“It is unfair that my peers in other schools have opportunities that we don't because we have inferior school facilities,” said Yaletza Reynoso, a junior at Hancock College Prep, which was made a selective enrollment school two years ago. 

Reynoso and other students compared their building to other recently built or renovated selective enrollment schools, like Jones College Prep.

Last month, the district issued an updated capital plan that listed a new $75 million unnamed “South Side High School”. Multiple sources told WBEZ the front runner to get that school is the Englewood neighborhood. 

“Englewood will continue to make it’s mark on the city’s landscape with the vision of a new state of the art school, designed by parents and community,” Dori Collins, co-chair of the Englewood Community Action Council, said at the meeting.

Also on the agenda were two contract extensions and two new contracts worth $535 million to privatize school engineers. One of the companies benefiting from these contracts is partially owned by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who donated $250,000 to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection bid. 

Bill Iacullo, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143, which represents Chicago school engineers, said the district should publish a cost-impact study, like all other districts in the state are required to do, before voting. 

“They’re not here to save you money, they’re going to make money,” Iacullo said. “I’m not saying they’re bad, that’s their job. But these are public sector jobs that are paid without overhead and profit.”

Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her at @WBEZeducation.

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