Recently, we received news of the Chicago Public Schools budget cuts across the city and in our neighborhood schools.
Enlace Chicago has been advocating for greater equitable school funding since its founding and while we made progress in increasing educational attainment before the pandemic, the impact of the health crisis has put that progress at high risk.
Our hyper-local approach has helped our community to advance with such initiatives as Early Childhood Education Lead Parent Advocates and Parent Leaders for College, among many others. and to advocate for more equitable education funding. We constantly advocate with the philanthropic sector, government and policy makers to confront the long standing “education divide” that has accumulated over time, given the historical inequity faced by communities like Little Village.
According to a Chalkbeat story released, on Friday, April 8, 2022, “overall, elementary schools in the neighborhood will see about $2.7 million in cuts.” The analysis also explains the shocking differences in per-pupil funding amongst schools with similar demographics, and “while several schools across the district experienced enrollment losses, it is not equal to budget cuts.” It is troubling to observe that, in other words, the district is receiving a different treatment to the Chicago Public Schools’ budget cuts.
During SY2021-2022, our schools received COVID-19 recovery dollars, which allowed schools to hire special education teachers, intervention specialists, SECAS (Special Education Classroom Assistants), and classroom tutors. Will the cuts put these new support positions at risk?
Little Village is one of the hardest hit communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our students in middle school and high school took jobs to support their families. Many others took the responsibility to support remote learning and take care of their siblings while parents were working. It is urgent to have equitable funding to support students’ academic recovery and re-engage students in school, while providing mental health support.
Many of our little ones were not engaged in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten during the pandemic. Our earliest learners deserve adequate resources and staffing support that the budget cuts will not allow for.
The CPS budget cuts deepen the long-standing “education debt.” Many of our schools are facing critical infrastructure issues. For example, the playground of the McCormick Elementary School has fallen into disrepair over the years. This has created unsafe conditions for all students to play during recess.
We are left wondering what the equity analysis is that the City and CPS officials are conducting when deciding over $2.7 million cuts to one of the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. We also know all too well the correlation between the increase of street violence and the inequity in education funding.
“We are setting a new standard for what every school has to have,” CEO Pedro Martinez said in an interview with Chalkbeat, what the new standard means for schools that have been facing historical disinvestments, which is the case of our neighborhood elementary schools. We are inviting Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer, Pedro Martinez to follow through his commitment during his inaugural speech, where he stated that “it was time for our low-income communities, mostly Latinxs and Black to receive what they deserved, equity investment to innovate and sustain quality education.”
We appeal to CEO Martinez, Mayor Lightfoot, and our local Alderperson Rodriguez to restore the funding for our local schools in order to continue to respond to the ongoing impact the pandemic has had in our children's hearts, minds, and souls.
We also invite the public to join us at a press conference organized by the Chicago Teachers Union on Tuesday, April 25 at 7:00 a.m. in front of Emiliano Zapata Academy, 2728 S. Kostner Avenue.
Marcela Rodríguez & Cesar Núñez
Co-Interim Executive Directors