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Latino Protests Prompt Chicago to Restore Funding for High-Poverty Schools

First posted on Education Week's District Dossier blog

UPDATED

By Denisa Superville

Nearly all of the Chicago school district's Latino Advisory Committee quit on Wednesday to protest budget cuts they said fall disproportionately on schools with predominantly Latino students, according to media reports.

The mass resignations came nearly a week after the Chicago school district sued Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the state of Illinois, and the state Board of Education over the state's school funding system, which they argue discriminates against poor Latino and black students and creates separate and unequal education systems. 

Sixteen of the committee's 18 members resigned, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Latino Advisory Committee protest was a response to the most recent $46 million spending freeze, which affects principals' discretionary funds for things like school supplies and after-school programs, according to Crain's Business Chicago.

When the district passed its budget last year, it did so with the expectation that it would receive additional money from the state. But in December, Gov. Rauner vetoed a measure that would have sent $215 million in pension relief to the district. Since passing the budget, the district has implemented furlough days and spending freezes to reduce costs. 

[UPDATE (Feb. 24): On Friday, the school district announced that in response to concerns from the Latino and African American communities it was returning $15 million in previously frozen discretionary funds to go to high-poverty schools.]

Jesse Ruiz, a former Chicago school board vice president who briefly served as interim CEO after Barbara Byrd-Bennett stepped down in 2015 under federal investigation, told the school board that the district cannot accuse the state of creating a separate and unequal school system when its own cuts fell disproportionately on mostly Hispanic students, according to Crain's Chicago Business.

Who is to blame?

CPS officials point to Rauner for vetoing the pension bill. But Rauner has said that his approval of the pension relief package was conditioned on larger pension changes statewide, Crain's Chicago Business reports.

School board president Frank Clark said the disproportionate impacts were unintentional and that the school board would take steps to correct it.  District officials also told the press that principals can appeal the cuts, though the process to do so was unclear, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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