By Ricky Piper
The CPS budgetary crisis for the current 2016 fiscal year has put serious pressure on the classrooms, administrations, and teaching faculties of CPS schools district-wide, including Payton.
Threatening fiscal challenges of declining state funding and increasing pension obligations have cost the CPS district $700 million this year alone, according to Forrest Claypool, the CEO of CPS, in the Chicago Sun-Times.
While Springfield pays pension costs for every other district in the state, CPS is forced to pay the massive pension debts with funds otherwise used for school resources.
Other districts will receive $2,226 per student in pension support from Springfield while CPS will only receive $31 per student, said Claypool.
As a “solution,” Claypool states in the Chicago Sun-Times, CPS has decided on a far from ideal budget with nearly $200 million in district wide cuts, $225 million debt structuring, and relief from TIF surplus funds and property tax raises.
It has been reported that about 1,400 positions have been eliminated, though Claypool has said that cuts to administration and the Central Office will not solve the debt alone. This has all been stated to be temporary, as it will save classroom sizes for the time being but will ultimately threaten the future of CPS schooling.
This crisis has put immense pressure on Payton’s principal, Mr. Devine, who has said his prime focus is on the enrichment of his students in the classroom.
According to Devine, Payton has not only had the leanest administration (three members) of any CPS high school, but for the last two years has also been the only CPS high school to put 100% of its funds into faculty and staff positions.
Despite efforts to push back on the CPS Central Office this past year for more funds, Devine stated that Payton received a budget that required 4.8 faculty members to be cut. In an effort to minimize the number of classes cut, Devine had to make the hard decision to cut assistant principal Ms. Washington, who was a valued member of the administration.
A recent development in the budget crisis has Forrest Claypool threatening Springfield that if it does not pay CPS the $480 million in supplemental funds it needs to sustain the budget, the district will be forced to make 5,000 faculty cuts by this Thanksgiving.
Since Payton’s administration has already been thinned to one assistant principal, Mr. Devine has stated that these cuts “would have to come from teachers,” but that “other rules Central Office and the CTU are going to put into place will dictate our decision making.”
Devine reflected that, “There are more questions than answers at the moment,” and that “we are in an era in CPS budgeting where anything’s on the table.”
Concerning which classes would be cut, Devine said, “We hypothetically have to consider that it would be elective courses… we cannot cut graduation required courses.”
He went on to state that the administration hasn’t “dug deeply into specifically which elective courses” would be cut, but that they would “probably need to be junior and senior level Honors and AP elective courses.”
Devine expressed that Payton “has to be concerned about the extracurriculars” being cut as well.
When asked if Payton would be able to rely on Friends of Payton for financial support if these cuts were to be made, Devine stated that, “Friends of Payton were great allies to the school this summer,” in addressing the financial issues posed by the budget, and he “suspects they would want to be very supportive to help sustain Payton’s great programs.”
However, Devine admits it is natural, at some point, to say “we can’t keep going to the same well over and over,” and he does not know, “when that tipping point is.”
Mr. Devine noted that he and FOP mutually understand that “it is the responsibility of public schools and, by default, taxpayers to pay for faculty and staff members,” and that “it is the responsibility of an individual school to raise funds” beyond those that taxpayers expend to fund core courses and programs.
Mr. Devine said, “Now, we’ve gotten into a place where the taxpayers and Central Office are not supporting us even at the basic levels,… and we shouldn’t accept this as the new normal.”