Crusader Staff Report
While students prepare to go back to school September 3, officials at Chicago Public Schools have begun holding community meetings on the proposed $7.7 billion budget that includes goals to make extensive academic improvements.
With 361,000 students attending 644 schools, CPS is the third-largest school district in the nation behind New York and Los Angeles.
The budget aims to address a Chicago Tribune investigation that uncovered dozens of ignored cases of complaints that involved students who were allegedly abused by staff members. The proposed budget allocates funding to hire more social workers and case managers at many schools located in troubled neighborhoods.
This week, CPS officials have held several meetings in the Loop and at Morgan Park, Whitney Young and Amundsen High Schools, to gain input from parents and residents on its 2020 operating budget, which they say is $117 million more than 2019.
More than 300 schools throughout Chicago are targeted for capital improvements and expanded programming.
CPS officials said the proposed budget includes an additional $73 million more in classroom spending than last year. They said the budget allocation is designed to improve their efforts in providing equal access in offering a quality education in all public schools in Chicago.
“This historic budget underscores Chicago’s commitment to our children through unprecedented investments across capital improvements, early-education, and expanded resources, giving students and educators alike increased access to state-of-the-art faci-
lities and first-rate programming in every neighborhood and community,” said Mayor Lightfoot.
“By putting equity first, we are ensuring every young person knows they matter, knows we care, and knows they can reach their full given potential, inspiring students of all ages to continue to set new academic records and create a city that is truly a beacon of hope and opportunity for all.”
CPS officials say the proposed budget prioritizes equitable access to high-quality facilities and programs by focusing on high-needs communities. CPS officials said 93 percent of the guaranteed $619 million capital plan will support schools that serve majority low-income student populations.
“This budget, which invests in hundreds of neighborhood schools throughout the city, is grounded in the belief that every student in every school deserves access to high-quality academic programs and learning facilities,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson in a statement.
“With equity as our focus, the district is making investments that will impact students in every part of the city through academic programming, building renovations, IT modernization and Pre-K expansion. By providing additional support to our learners who need it the most, we are laying the foundation to build upon the district’s record-setting progress.”
CPS aims to invest $619 million as part of a total $821 million from the proposed budget spending plan that will benefit 161,000 CPS students across the city. CPS is allocating $263 million in funding for critical maintenance projects and interior improvements including roof, envelope, and mechanical repair and replacement, and critical interior repairs aligned with needs outlined in the Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP).
CPS officials say they are making the district’s largest ever Pre-Kindergarten capital investment as part of its plan to provide free full-day Pre-K for all 4-year-olds in Chicago by 2021.
As part of a $120 million combined investment in Pre-K facilities, $20 million is being allocated for classroom conversions at 106 schools to be completed in time for the 2019-20 school year, and $100 million is being allocated for classroom expansion at schools to support additional Pre-K seats that will open in Fall, 2020.
According to the proposed budget, CPS is investing $145 million in a plan to upgrade its buildings. The plan includes spending $30 million to upgrade or renovate science labs in 29 high schools. The district also plans to spend $85 million on technology devices and infrastructure improvements.
CPS is adding at least 250 nurse positions over the next five years. The FY2020 budget begins this expansion by including $2.5 million in funding to hire an additional 30 nurses during the 2019-20 school year to support district schools.
CPS also plans to spend $3.5 million to hire 35 social workers. The district aims to have at least 200 social workers in the next five years.
According to the proposed budget, CPS plans to spend $3.6 million to hire case managers at specific schools in troubled neighborhoods to address problems facing minority students.