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Chicago Schools Look to Close Budget Gap

Chicago's board of education gave permission this week for school administrators to boost class sizes and layoff teachers to deal with a budget crunch.

The board approved the measures Tuesday to help deal with a financial crisis caused by cuts in state funding and a delay in payments of more than $400 million in state aid, schools spokeswoman Monique D. Bond said in a release.

The plan is part of the district's full-court press to seek some concessions from labor leaders, especially the Chicago Teachers Union, as it tries to cut costs and wait out the state legislature. The union recently filed suit against the school district to prevent class size increases.

"It is our hope to partner with the CTU, as well as our other unions, to negotiate concessions that address the enormous budgetary challenges facing our district," Huberman said before the board voted, the Chicago Tribune newspaper reported. "These concessions are the only way CPS can avoid having to employ widespread teacher layoffs, which will result in increased class sizes."

As you might imagine, not everyone is happy about this.

Julie Woestehoff , executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, a local advocacy group that has often had tough words for schools CEO Ron Huberman, and his predecessor, Arne Duncan, said, "...the public has a right to know all the numbers in the CPS budget before such a horrible, drastic move like raising class size to 35 is done. "

"These state and CPS officials think they can pit parents against teachers in a war over pay hikes versus class size, but PURE has always seen through that strategy. Most teachers are doing their part, and many give 110 percent. Most parents are trying to do our part, too," Woestehoff said via e-mail. "State and city officials want to hold students and teachers accountable but are unwilling to be accountable to the public even in this extreme emergency."

I'll be keeping an eye out to tell you how things go in the Windy City as it and other school districts wait on answers from the state legislature in Springfield.

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