Chicago Board of Education OKs $5.4B budget amid protests

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Board of Education unanimously approved a $5.4 billion budget on Wednesday that relies on increased property taxes and additional state funding that is far from certain.

The vote by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked school board followed protests by teachers and parents in the nation's third-largest school district who say the plan calls for too many layoffs and cuts.

Advocacy groups also have expressed concern that the budget calls for additional borrowing for a cash-strapped district that has seen its credit rating slashed to "junk" status has borrowed to pay day-to-day bills.

The Civic Federation, a business-backed watchdog, says the school board must account for how it would close a funding gap if state lawmakers never approve $215 million to help cover the cost of teacher pensions.

School CEO Forrest Claypool says if the state doesn't come through, the district will have to cut money from classrooms.

But CPS officials described the budget as "much stronger" than last year, when the district counted on even more state funding that never materialized.

The tax increase will go to cover the district's contribution to teacher pensions, which is increasing dramatically each year. CPS says the hike — which will generate $250 million per year — will cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $245 more this year.

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