Chicago Public School returns $15M to poor schools

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Janice Jackson

Chicago Public Schools announced recently that the District will return $15 million in frozen discretionary funds to high poverty schools across the District. The move was in response to concerns from Black and Hispanic parents, who are worried about Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of $215 million in funding to CPS.

In a recent letter to principals, CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said that Rauner’s veto forced them to implement a spending freeze to prevent layoffs. However, CPS officials were concerned that the freeze would create an “uneven distribution of cuts.”

“At the end of the day, we wanted to prevent teacher layoffs that would have affected schools across all CPS communities,” Claypool said in a statement. “Not only did we not want to lose good teachers, but the impact on students, of removing teachers late in the school year, would have been devastating at many schools.

“After the freeze was announced, we heard strong concerns from members of both the African American and Hispanic communities. While we cannot make this freeze equal in all schools, we want to be responsive to those concerns and mitigate the most disproportionate impacts.”

CPS expects that the unfrozen funds will allow schools to continue the most critical programming affected by the freeze of unspent discretionary funds. However, if any school faces the elimination of critical programming, they can contact their Network Chief to consider a budget appeal under CPS’s normal process. CPS does not expect the appeals will result in significant increased expenses.

For schools that receive Title I funds, CPS will provide $57 per student, or if the original freeze was less, the amount of the original freeze. No school will see a freeze of more than $300 per pupil.

As a result of unfreezing these funds, CPS will also reduce the charter proportionate share of the freeze by $3 million, from $18 million to $15 million.

CPS has not identified a funding stream to pay for these changes.

This increases the District’s remaining budget deficit from $111 million to $129 million. Ultimately, without a victory in our lawsuit against the State of Illinois for equal funding or without a deal in Springfield this spring, our choices to close this deficit only become more painful.

Claypool and Jackson also told principals that the District continues to do everything in its power to increase revenue to prevent more painful cuts.

“CPS lobbied in Springfield for permission to raise taxes on Chicagoans by $342 million this year alone and received $88 million in TIF funds from the City specifically for our operating budget. We will raise taxes to the legal maximum next year and continue to request one-time TIF dollars be transferred to pay for operations instead of capital (a stop-gap move that will only exacerbate our problem in the years to come). We have cut hundreds of millions in administrative costs in the last 18 months alone and will continue to streamline operations, but we can no longer shield the classroom from the State’s discriminatory funding.”

A school-by-school spreadsheet of unfrozen funds will be made available after principals have reviewed their updated budgets. No school will lose funds as a result of this measure.

Chicago Public Schools serves 381,000 students in 652 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.

 

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