CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Just weeks after warning that a billion dollar budget deficit could prevent schools from opening this fall, the head of Chicago Public Schools says the financial picture is now much better.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool delivered that message Wednesday to hundreds of school principals.
"So first of all, phew! We were definitely nervous,” said Lovett School principal Leviis Haney. "I'm very relieved that we are able to protect our core instructional programs."
"Hallelujua, right? That's the best news we could hear. Obviously we don't want to lose any personnel,” said Agassiz School principal Mira Webber.
Principals received the news during day long budget briefings at Chicago Public School headquarters. It came just weeks after dire warnings that CPS faced a billion dollar deficit that could have prevented school from starting in September.
"This means that schools will open on time. This means no academic programs being scaled back,” Claypool said.
Claypool says the turnaround came after state lawmakers last month approved a stopgap state budget that includes hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid for cps: a 250-million dollar Chicago property tax hike and about 200-million dollars in new efficiencies and administrative cuts at the district itself.
But even with all that, there remains a budget deficit of about 300-million dollars and Claypool says it's time for the Chicago teacher's union to do its part.
"Now hopefully the teachers’ union leadership will see the state has stepped up, city taxpayers have stepped up, CPS is stepping up and we need them to step up too,” Claypool said.
But teacher's union vice president Jesse Sharkey calls the school budgets "vague" and says they "Continue to hurt students and cripple education....There have been hundreds of millions in cuts that CPS claims are 'away from the classroom,' but that have cut essential programming from transportation, counseling, after-school programs and even school libraries."
CPS continues to negotiate with the teachers union over a new contract. The district says it will release its full and formal budget proposal in the coming weeks.