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Parents Asked to Pony Up for Kindergarten at South Loop School

Parents of South Loop Elementary students blasted school board officials Wednesday after they proposed a voluntary fee to keep the school’s kindergarten program running.

Members of the South Loop Local School Council asked for a contribution of $2,500 per family for the fall program to offset the district’s recent budget cuts. The funds are expected to secure a full-time teacher for the program, but because the contributions are optional, Principal Tara Shelton said she fears most parents won’t pay.

“It has to be all or nothing,” Shelton said at the school council meeting Wednesday. “If we don’t do this, we will lose the full-day kindergarten program and our teacher.”

The CPS budget cuts are expected to have a negative effect on the school, which is already struggling to fund various programs, Shelton said.

“We have the bare minimum financing you could possibly imagine for a public school,” Shelton said. “We really have to beg, borrow and steal to make this happen because of the budget cuts.”

The announcement came as a shock to parents whose children are already enrolled in the 2010-2011 kindergarten program.

Emily Farr, a concerned parent, said it isn’t fair for some parents to donate the money, while others won’t.

“Some parents are going to wonder why they’re paying for another person’s child,” Farr said.

The proposal requires parents to pay in full by July 1. The school needs a donation of $73,600 to employ a full-time teacher, which means at least two-thirds of parents will have to pay. And because the majority of parents can’t afford to donate, it’s “a big pill to swallow for parents who will,” Shelton said.

“If there’s a surplus, parents will be refunded,” she added.

Lynne Pieper, whose children also attend South Loop Elementary, said she agrees with the proposal but said officials need to reduce the amount of money they’re seeking.

“I think if you’re going to do it, you need to ask for less and publicize it more,” Pieper said. “Be bold; ask for the money.”

Newsletters for the fall program will be sent during registration period, when parents will be notified of the changes. Shelton said she hopes parents will look beyond the dollar signs and contribute to a program that will benefit the school as a whole.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the request for additional funds came from the Chicago Public School board. The request came from the South Loop Local School Council. ChicagoTalks regrets the error.

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