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updated: 6/14/2013 3:49 PM

Chicago school district announces $52 million in new cuts

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Associated Press

Chicago Public Schools officials said Friday they've identified more than $52 million in administrative and operational cuts to help close an estimated $1 billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal year, and will spend the next several weeks looking for more ways to trim expenses.

The district said it will save $20.7 million a year, including by eliminating almost 100 central office positions and more efficient building maintenance. That's on top of $31.6 million in cuts announced earlier this year.

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett called the deficit "historic," but said the district is trying to avoid more cuts that would affect students.

"Next year's budget will not come without painful decisions, which is why we are making tough choices at central office in order to minimize impacts to our classrooms," Byrd-Bennett said in a written statement.

Officials say that since 2011, CPS has cut almost $600 million from the central office and programs that it funds.

The nation's third-largest school district has been struggling to trim its deficit, which it said was inflated by a $400 million increase in its annual pension payments, salaries and flat or declining revenue.

The Chicago Board of Education last month voted to close 50 schools and programs that it said were underused. Mayor Rahm Emanuel promoted the plan, saying it would save the district hundreds of millions over 10 years and improve education.

Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett said CPS has 403,000 students in a system that has seats for more than 500,000.

The school closures have sparked protests and lawsuits from opponents who say they disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods and will endanger children who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.

Officials have said students will be moved to schools that are performing better academically and that CPS will work with Chicago police and community groups to ensure students can get to and from their new schools safely.

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