CPS budgets more per student, but schools’ financial woes still not over

Written By BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK and Becky Schlikerman Education Reporters Posted: 04/09/2014, 09:42am

As they begin releasing figures from the 2015 budget, Chicago Public Schools officials said Wednesday they will increase how much money each school will receive per student enrolled next year.

The extra $70 million going to classrooms will come from a combination of ever-shrinking central office spending, an accounting change that drops 29 additional days into the new fiscal year and dividing up $65 million that was used last year at certain hard-hit schools, according to CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Schools will receive $267 more for each child in kindergarten through third grade, $250 more per student in grades four through eight and $310 more for high schoolers, said district budget chief Ginger Ostro. That means schools will receive $4,390 for each of the youngest elementary students, in next year’s budget, $4,697 for each of the older children and $5,444 for each high school student, Ostro said.

Byrd-Bennett repeated Wednesday that student-based budgeting — giving each school a fixed amount per child, rather than assigning a set number of teachers to a school based on enrollment — is the fairest system.

During last year’s budgeting process, which started late after the Board of Education approved closing a record number of schools, principals and Local School Councils blamed the central office for leaving the tough layoff decisions to individual school leadership.

Kate Schott Bolduc, a member of the LSC at Blaine Elementary School and a co-founder of the Common Sense Coalition of LSCs, said that school’s budget arrived today. Based on the numbers CPS provided, the school of 950 students will receive about $230,000 more than last year.

“For us that’s a pretty significant amount,” Schott Bolduc said. “That would probably cover two teaching positions.”

She praised the extra money but warned it doesn’t solve all the budget woes.

“I would say it’s good news, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to meet what’s happening in other successful school districts throughout the country,” Schott Bolduc said.

For instance, she pointed to new physical education requirements imposed by CPS.

“Blaine is going to have to get really creative” to comply with that mandate, she said.

She said the school needs to hire at least one more PE teacher to teach 29 classes, and must figure out where those classes will meet.

The promised funds are “a step in the right direction but it’s still not enough to meet the mandates that CPS is giving us year after year,” Schott Bolduc, adding, “it’s way too early” to say how the extra money will be spent.

Schott Bolduc said Blaine lost about $700,000 last year. The school saved art and music but now has overcrowded middle school classrooms. Parents at the Lakeview school have also raised hundred of thousands of dollars.

“We’ve really done the best we can,” Schott Bolduc said.

Last year’s budget wasn’t approved until August, a few days after the first day of school. Board president David Vitale said the district is releasing preliminary budget details sooner this year, hoping the board votes in June, so principals can compete with suburban districts for talented teachers, who tend to get snapped up first.

Email: lfitzpatrick@suntimes.com, bschlikerman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @bylaurenfitz @schlikerman

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