West Side leaders speak out at CPS budget hearing

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Chicago Public Schools held the last of three hearings Friday at Malcolm X College before the Chicago Board of Education votes on a new budget later this month.

The proposed budget would cut about $68 million from schools citywide.

The Austin-North Lawndale Elementary Network, which includes 27 elementary schools, is set to lose just over $15 million, according to figures posted on CPS’ web site.

The West Side High School Network, with 26 schools, would lose close to $24 million, according to the same report.

Friday’s hearing 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 the citywide group 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.”

“They’re [CPS] hurting our community, and we do not have one elected black official standing up,” said Truss.

Truss’ 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.

Jitu Brown, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, told the crowd, “You all need to stop letting them tell you how long to speak.”

Each speaker was allotted two minutes, which is also the protocol at the monthly Board of Education meetings.

“This ain’t your neighborhood — this is our neighborhood,” Brown told the board members.

The hearing lasted about an hour before the crowd started chanting, “walk out.”

Board members continued the hearing with a significantly diminished crowd as at least half of the attendees held their own meeting, led by Brown, in the lobby of Malcolm X College.

The crowd joined hands as Brown continued to speak.

“We have to be unified, work together and struggle with each other,” he said.

David Miranda, deputy press secretary for CPS, said the district tries to stay focused on moving forward and doesn’t like making these decisions.

“We’re the recipients of a lot of anger about decisions that aren’t ours,” he said, pointing to tax codes and the need for pension reform at the state level.

The Chicago Board of Education is set to vote on the budget at its next board meeting, which is Aug. 28.


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