Will budget cuts axe the Gifted/Classical/Magnet progams?

March 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm 26 comments

So the big panic now is the massive budget problems plaguing CPS.  I’ve said already that I’d never want Huberman’s job.  It’s hard enough trying to educate an inner-city student base when the state of IL kicks in very little to help out.  Now he has to do it with almost a billion dollars less than we’re spending right now.

I won’t go into the gory details, mainly because it gives me a headache and makes me want to start perusing the suburb real estate listings.

But, one of the threats is to eliminate the gifted/classical programs and magnet schools to save many millions.

The thing I don’t get about this possible solutions is the following:  It’s not like by eliminating these programs the kids in them just disappear!  I mean they’ll just resurface at their neighborhood schools where CPS will STILL have to pay to educate them!  Right?!

Does it cost a lot more to educate kids in the gifted/classical/magnet programs than in other schools?  I know these schools get full day Kindergarten for “free” from CPS, while neighborhood schools do not.  Gifted and classical schools get a foreign language, which costs more.  I supposed gifted/classical teachers get some extra training.  I wouldn’t think that magnet teachers do.  These schools tend to have full classes, which makes them more efficient than many neighborhood schools.  Of course bussing is a big cost.

So it seems like it would just result in a “re-allocation” of kids.  Not a reduction of any sort.  I can see addressing those extra costs I mentioned, which would actually make things more fair.  But I’m not seeing how full-on elimination is going to help.

Frankly, I’ve talked to people about how getting rid of these “enablers” would force more parents to support their neighborhood school which wouldn’t be entirely bad.

My God, what would I obsess about then?!

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The gifted/classical ranking process Short break from obsessing – school lunch comedy

26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. RL Julia  |  March 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Furthermore, CPS will isn’t going to lay-off all the teachers at the gifted schools either or start paying them a lower salary.

    Even fi they got rid of the gifted schools, I’d imagine there would still be more desirable and less desirable elementary schools to attend within the CPS system. The schools who had the ability to fund-raise and keep their gifted programs would be the new winners as far as I see it….

  • 2. Y  |  March 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I think CPS would save quite a bit of money by eliminating the RGC and Classical programs. For starters, they would save on the testing costs of the students. The CPS Office of Academic Enhancement would be downsized. The ten teacher positions (KG-8 + foreign language) at each school would be eliminated. Finally, busing costs would be substantially reduced.

    CPS would re-assign current RGC and classical students to their neighborhood school but it is unlikely the neighborhood school would get another teaching position. Assuming our DD goes back to our neighborhood school, the class would go from 31 to 32, which isn’t going to require another teacher. If only a couple extra students are going back to each neighborhood school, they just get re-absorbed by the school without additional teachers.

  • 3. 2ndtimearound  |  March 2, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    one of the problems with the neighborhood schools is that they are often unaware of where people are actually living and choosing to raise their kids. some of the less desirable schools are in neighborhoods with housing projects and some of the up and coming neighborhoods are within those school boundaries that were drawn years ago (before some of the neighborhoods really started changing). when parents find out what the neighborhood option is, often it is unacceptable for many reasons and there is not enough community momentum to try to pull off another Nettlehorst, so people either send their children to private school, try the CPS lottery, move to a better neighborhood or move out of the city altogether. it would be great if we could choose our neighborhood school, but our nieghborhood is so full of kids, no decent school wants to absorb us into their boundaries. part of this stems from the office of school demographics at cps relying on census data from 2000. maybe after this year, things will change for the better as they will have a more accurate picture or who is raising their children exactly where in the city.

  • 4. hopeful  |  March 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    The elimination of bussing across the system would save 23 million dollars alone. Bussing needs to go. If parents really want their kid in the program, they need to take care of that.

  • 5. Y  |  March 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    When discussing busing, don’t assume it’s only for RGC and Classical programs, which is the presumption. CPS also buses students with special needs, deaf students, etc. where certain schools are better equipped to teach them. At schools with multiple programs – RGC plus deaf or RGC plus special needs, the buses are shared between the programs.

  • 6. Frightening  |  March 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    The thought of CPS eliminating these programs makes me sick to my stomache. I have one child at a classical school and the other in a magnet. My husband and I do not bus either child because we really don’t trust CPS or their buses. We drive bothe children to and from school. I take one to school before work and my husband who works from home takes the other and picks up both. I hope they just cut the bus service and keep the programs. I know some parents need the bus service and I’m being selfish but I just don’t want either child at my neighborhood school.

  • 7. hopeful  |  March 2, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Even if the city left all bus service for special needs kids, and I think most people know that exists, cutting for the magnet/gifted schools would save a lot. It would be a pain for our family. We depend on the bus. But I’d rather see bussing cut than teachers’ salaries.

  • 8. CPSgrad  |  March 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Cutting magnet and gifted schools is not going to eliminate all the budget problems. In fact, it may create more problems for CPS. What CPS doesn’t quite get is that for many of the families in the gifted programs, transferring back to their neighborhood schools is NOT an option. They haven’t left their neighborhood schools on a whim or for status; instead it was to meet the needs of their children. Critics of “gifted labeling” fail to understand that gifted classification falls under the Special Education umbrella. That being said, a gifted child has specialized needs no different than an autistic or learning disabled child. If CPS closes the gifted schools many families will leave the CPS system in favor of private or suburban schools. Then what will happen to the CPS test scores as they are measured against other districts in the state? They will drop drastically and CPS will have NOTHING to hang its hat on. The Office of Demographics and Planning sits in its ivory tower completely out of touch with the realities of Chicago’s unique communities. Multi-million dollar schools sit half-vacant; delapidated and aging schools are overcrowded. It’s obvious that “gifted” graduates are NOT running our schools! The Mayor, who is also out of touch with reality, has the power to appoint our school board. He just appointed the former Buildings Commissioner as the board president?????? And the CEO is the former CTA head??? Look at the current CTA mess!! Where will CPS be when Humberman moves on to his next plum position? Our kids deserve better.
    Furthermore, the budget crisis will not be solved by simply closing the gifted centers. With a state, county, and city all on the verge of bankruptcy, we have some serious problems in our futures. We are the richest country in the world, yet we can’t seem to figure out how to properly and fairly educate our children.
    It’s a sad, sad story….

  • 9. LR  |  March 3, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Are they talking about getting rid of gifted programs entirely? Or just having gifted classes within neighborhood schools? In theory, I agree with integrating gifted classes within neighborhood schools. There is so much talk about the very limited number of spots at these gifted schools. All of us agonize over getting in. Given your prior discussion about the unreliability of the entrance exams at a young age, I really don’t see the fairness in accepting kids who are at the 99th percentile, but not accepting kids in the 97th percentile because of space issues. If they integrate gifted classes into the neighborhood schools, they would be able to take just about all the kids who qualify for this type of learning environment (at least 90th and above). Many, many more kids could benefit. Right now we live in kind of a mediocre CPS school district – so I wouldn’t send my kids to their neighborhood program. But if you told me they qualified for a spot in their gifted track program and would be in math and reading classes with other kids of similar academic ability, I might give it a shot. Let’s just say, I see the logic behind their decision. True, you wouldn’t have the “best of the best” anymore; but I think you would see an upswing at some of the mediocre CPS schools.

  • 10. hopeful  |  March 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Just talked to a teacher friend this morning. This is slightly off topic. But apparently Maine Township school district just pink slipped 150 untenured teachers and told the rest of the teachers who were left, “you have to take a salary freeze and if you don’t like it–leave. We have a huge stack of resumes to hire from right here.” And they told the kids if their parents wanted extracurriculars, they were going to have to pay for the cost in full out of pocket.
    Now, cps sports are facing the same cuts. Sophmore sports have been axed. While I still doubt they will actually cut gifted/classical/magnets, it won’t be a total surprise.
    Oh, and don’t forget, we are projected to do this all again NEXT school year with another huge deficit facing the 2011-12 school year.
    What will get cut then? It really looks like every single thing that can go, will go.

  • 11. Observer  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    A rather large percentage of “gifted” kids can still do well in a more conventional classroom. Perhaps CPS can have such kids go back to their neighborhood schools.
    For those who are so gifted that they cannot integrate well in the neighborhood schools, CPS can maintain a few RGC/classical schools.
    But the majority could probably go back to the neighborhood schools, especially if there are pull-out tracks for them.
    This whole thing looks like a potentially huge clusterf*ck for parents and students who were really banking on staying in the RGC/classical system for elementary school.

  • 12. Substantiation?  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    “But, one of the threats is to eliminate the gifted/classical programs and magnet schools to save many millions.”

    Is this just your guess or have you read/heard something I haven’t? I really hate this thread because it puts this idea out there even if it isn’t being considered.

    Personally, I don’t see them doing away with the RGC/Classical schools. They’re consistently at the top of the school rankings for the state even if CPS is cherry-picking the top test takers. It still makes the district look good to have some schools at the top.

    What needs to be done is:
    1. Daley not re-elected next year;
    2. CPS needs to have a Superintendent of Schools like all of the other districts in Illinois (meaning they have to have an education degree) and NOT a CEO;
    3. We need an elected Board of Education not one appointed by Daley; and
    4. We need to cut many of the six-figure administrative positions downtown. Just cutting maybe as few as eight saves us a million dollars a year! And somehow I think there’s a lot of those administrators who could be cut and no one would notice.

    Just my two cents…..

  • 13. CPSnewbie  |  March 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Interesting news.

    “Illinois has been named a finalist for $500 million in federal funding to transform how teachers are evaluated, students are tested and failing schools are fixed, the U.S. Secretary of Education announced this morning.”


  • 14. dave4118  |  March 4, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I don’t want to jump in the political puddle, but Daley is just a small problem…the real problem lies downstate. The state government is dysfunctional. The Tribune just printed an editorial citing a way to remedy the awful state budget, and not decrease educational funding. It will never get off the ground in Springfield….too many varied interests in seeing that the process remains the same.

  • 15. hopeful  |  March 4, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I am pretty sure the CTU refused to sign this application because it ties student test scores to teacher pay. I am not sure what that means in terms of what happens if IL gets some of those $$. I am guessing that only school districts who agree to the strings attached get the dollars, but I could be wrong.

  • 16. cpsmama  |  March 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    CPS has been threatening to cut bussing since my daughter started kindgergarten at a classical school- 11 years ago. Every year that issue comes up and it never happens. Just think, if bussing had been cut 11 years ago- CPS would have saved $250 million by now.

    CPS doesn’t think about the long-term effects of its actions

    By the way, CPS is already backtracking on the cutting of sophmore sports/extracurriculars due to pressure by Mayor Daley.

  • 17. Mayfair Dad  |  March 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Ron Huberman is the best thing to ever happen to Catholic schools.

  • 18. Mayfair Dad  |  March 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    OK, now for a serious post:

    1.) The two-tiered educational system has to be dismantled. Magnet schools, devised to address federally mandated desegregation goals, do not work for their intended purpose. Magnet schools were NOT devised to provide an upgrade from neighborhood schools for yuppies in gentrifying areas. Sorry.

    2.) All neighborhood schools must improve at providing a solid core curriculum for all students at all ability levels, including kids who thrive learning above grade level. The word gifted is misunderstood and misused in Chicago. The proper word is excellerated, if you need a label. If your Buffy or Jody is truly the second coming of Einstein, maybe private school is a better choice for you.

    3.) RGC and Classical Schools will not be eliminated, but will probably morph into schools with a neighborhood enrollment bias. We’ve already seen this with the magnets, opening up more seats for kids who live nearby. For RCG/Classical, maybe a designated 60% of seats earmarked for kids within attendance boundaries at 7th stanine and above. Preserve the lofty test scores but feel more like a neighborhood school.

    4.) Bussing goes way, except for special needs students. And if CPS must provide bussing to adhere to NCLB mandates, then Uncle Sam should pick up the tab.

    5.) All of the wonderful “extras” go away, i.e. music, art, sports teams, enrichment — unless parents are willing to fundraise or charge a participation fee. Parochial schools are already doing this, and I think more CPS parents (besides Nettlehorst, Bell, Hawthorne, et.al.) would be willing if the core curriculum / quality of instruction was excellent at their neighborhood school.

    End of rant. Still fuming about the SE high school fiasco…

  • 19. ydice  |  March 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I am so torn on this issue.

    I am not a fan of the magnet system or SE, given that years of testing has proven that most students cannot truly be classified as “gifted” before at least 3rd grade. (Read, “NurtureShock for more) Also, I think nobody runs to the suburbs expecting to have an entire school fool of “gifted” children. There, students go to school with kids of ALL levels and if they are truly gifted, have the opportunity to be in accelerated programs. (Although, my sister in the suburbs laughs and says that every parent thinks their child is gifted to the point that they’ve had to expand the gifted program to such an extent that it’s not really gifted anymore — only to appease the parents.)

    I can’t imagine how it helps the CPS system as a whole (other than providing a handful of great test scores to “prove” the system “works”) to funnel the not-necessarily-brightest, but obviously very dedicated to education to just a few schools.

    So, given that (and this is only one person’s opinion, of course) I believe the magnet system is truly a waste of money. Nor do I think it is fair that we pay the same taxes but only get half-day kindergarten, while magnet students get full-day and special programs like languages, based partly on our taxes. Would you think that’s fair if you were not in a magnet school?

    So, if I do not believe in the magnet/SE programs, why am I torn?

    Because, although I think the district would save a lot of money by eliminating these programs, I do NOT think that the magnet/SE program is the cause of this budget mess. I agree with the poster above that it’s a state-level issue … impacted by complete incompetence and, let’s face it, criminal misuse of funds at a city level. So, it would not be fair to cut the programs for that reason. They are using the programs as a scapegoat to distract people from the much larger issues affecting CPS … and the city budgets.

    BTW, I am only offering my opinion. I have many friends in magnet schools and am NOT making a judgment on that decision. I would feel deeply for them if they had the rug pulled out from under them and would probably end up fighting with them to keep the programs. Ha. I know. But that’s the way I am. I would be as upset as they would be … even though my kids are going to the neighborhood school!

    I really think if people felt that their neighborhood school was SAFE, there’d be a whole different view of CPS. CPS’ problems are far deeper than magnet/SE, yet somehow that seems to be the only educational issue anyone talks about.

  • 20. chicago parent  |  March 6, 2010 at 9:45 am

    First point: The City of Chicago & any other urban area need those yuppie parents to stay in the public school system if the city and its schools are to remain viable. These are the folks that care about education and pay taxes. Dismantling the schools that are the best academically in a weak system is dumb. Fix the neighborhood schools first to bring them up to par or you will have a massive exodus of middle class, education centric parents from the public school system.

    Second point: Working parents who do not have a nanny need a school bus for elementary school transportation.

    Third point: The neighborhood school academic level, even in the best neighborhood schools, is mediocre. There is no incentive to provide anything accelerated for kids that are already in the exceeds category. I know this first hand. I had wanted to have a school within walking distance where my guy could play on the playground after school. He was literally ignored by his teacher once she figured out that he was already in the exceeds category. His babysitter, also a teacher, told me that they even group the kids into different color groups — yellow, green, etc. and focus the vast majority of their efforts on bringing up the low “color coded” group to grade level. Why should I accept a system that does not provide academic challenge to my son? This is true not just for the Einsteins of this world, but for any kid in the top 20% of his/her class.

    Last point. Why should you want the top students academically to leave the public school system to go to private school? I just do not understand this.

  • 21. Mayfair Dad  |  March 7, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Chicago Parent: we agree more than we disagree. Remember the thread is about the doomsday budget crunch, so “if money were no option” solutions don’t apply.

    First point: I fear you miss my point. The magnet school approach was conceived to address the Consent Degree. Over time, these schools evolved into a strata of upgraded education options to discourage yuppies from fleeing the city. CPS even marketed them as such in glossy Options for Knowledge brochures. The neighborhood schools will never improve so long as this strata of premium brand schools exist, which drain resources and families who value education from the neighborhood schools. If you want the neighborhood schools to improve, eliminate the ill-conceived band-aids (magnets) conveniently re-branded as choice.

    Second point: If your neighborhood school was providing a first-rate, challenging education to all children at all ability levels, including your whip-smart kiddies, there would be no need for buses. And yes, it infuriates me the neighborhood school takes a “if it ain’t broke, no need to fix it” attitude to smart kids. NCLB = lift from the bottom, where is the incentive to push the bright kids who are already exceeding? This needs to change, starting with national education policy. So we agree on the problem, not the solution.

    Last point: the parents of authentic budding Einsteins tend to speak of their children as “having special needs, requiring a unique learning environment populated with similar special needs children.” I call this language Edisonspeak. These parents would never be content sending their children to a neighborhood school, even one that offered an accelerated curriculum. Given the limited financial resources of CPS, these special needs children may be better served at a private academy.

    Full disclosure: two kids currently at a spectacular magnet school we love, and a third enrolled in a gifted program at another spectacular public school. Why? The neighborhood school does not offer a challenging curriculum for my own whip-smart kiddies.

  • 22. ydice  |  March 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    “If you want the neighborhood schools to improve, eliminate the ill-conceived band-aids (magnets) conveniently re-branded as choice”

    This is my mantra. I love this. They call it choice … when all it is is “chance.”

    And that should not be good enough for anyone who cares about public education here or anywhere.

  • 23. Adele  |  March 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    As a smart friend said after a look at the numbers —
    gifted, classical, magnet and s.e. budget cuts account for less than 1/2 of 1% of the nearly 1 billion Mr. Huberman needs.

    The teachers pensions are the looming costs.

    The average teacher salary for hours worked is higher than the national average.

  • 24. Adele  |  March 19, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    It strikes me that Huberman wants CPS schools to model themselves after the “barebones” inner city Catholic schools.

    No asst. principal.
    1 custodian
    no security
    no librarian


  • 25. cpsobsessed  |  March 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    @Adele, I don’t know if he necessarily “wants” that (I mean who would?) I think it’s just the reality he’s working with given the funding. The teachers have to be there. Pretty much everything else is bonus, in theory.
    People want librarians, they gotta pay for them. People want security, they can pay for it.
    It just seems like education is harder hit than anything else. Or maybe I just pay attention to it more.

  • 26. Adele  |  March 20, 2010 at 8:42 am

    That’s very true.
    I agree. And while it’s not true of all schools, I’ve seen a few that — for years — have had been overstaffed in areas other than teaching: clerical, security, cafeteria, etc. You could easily question whether small schools really need an asst. principal. But then there is no o.t.j. training for principals.

    Re: the specials — art, computers, library, and gym — do you know of any schools that are planning to outsource these? Might be a way for parents to keep the things they deem most important for their kids.

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