CPS’ per-pupil funding could be cut by almost 40%

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool told some principals Tuesday to expect school budget cuts of up to 30 percent. | Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Public Schools told some principals Tuesday to expect total school budget cuts of between 20 percent and 30 percent as the district plans for “the worst.”

The broke district, which has been begging Springfield all year for financial help, plans to chop its own per-pupil contribution by nearly 40 percent, according to proposed budgets given to 15 elementary and high schools.

The district says principals have to “plan for the worst — higher class sizes, loss of enrichment activities, and layoffs of teachers and support staff” while waiting for the General Assembly to take action on proposed pension help or revising the state’s funding formula, spokeswoman Emily Bittner said.

On average, schools will feel a budget cut of 26 percent once they receive their state and federal funding, she said. The base per-pupil rate will drop from $4,088 to $2,495 if the proposed budget becomes final. It includes an equivalent cut for charters, too, she said.

Leaders from 15 “example schools” were invited to a meeting with CEO Forrest Claypool, chief education officer Janice Jackson and others, Bittner said.

Some cried when they saw the numbers today, according to one attendee.

“This cannot be real. It can’t be real,” said D’Andre Weaver, who learned that his South Side school of about 900 kids, Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, is going to lose about $520,000. That’s a little more than $1 out of $4 previously allocated to the test-in school at 250 E. 111th St. and equals at least five or six staff positions.

“You can’t do a lot” to mitigate that, he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “You’re going to have to cut people, and it’s going to impact the classroom. There’s no way around that.”

Weaver ticked off some of the cuts CPS schools already underwent during the past school year, which started with a $480 million budget gap: Summer and then midyear layoffs; schools instructed to hoard their cash; three unpaid furlough days.

“I don’t think they’re BS-ing,” he said of CPS. “Now I’m like, ‘We’re getting on a bus, we’re going to wear a shirt, we’re going to do all we can. . . . These are our amazing people, and we can’t function without them.’ ”

Claypool had been warning of 20 percent cuts based on CPS’ predicted shortfall of about $1 billion next year. Last week several principals said such large reductions will surely lead to staff layoffs and larger class sizes — as well as principals and parents looking for other places to work and to send their children.

CPS says it has been collecting ideas from principals to soften the blow as much as possible, and it plans to help school leaders schedule their teachers as efficiently as possible and coordinate sharing some staff, too. Meanwhile, it’s urging parents and schools to pressure state legislators into acting.

A bill championing major changes to the school funding formula — endorsed by both the district and the Chicago Teachers Union — has passed the Senate. And a bipartisan working group also has been considering ideas to better fund poor schools statewide too. Legislators are in session through May 31.

Weaver said he is now looking into organizing his school community to lobby for better funding.

The Board of Education must approve a final budget before Aug. 31, according to state law.

The schools that got bad budget news Tuesday:

  • Black Magnet Elementary School
  • Brooks College Prep High School
  • Chavez Elementary School
  • Chicago Agricultural High School
  • Corliss High School
  • Frazier Magnet Elementary School
  • Kenwood Academy High School
  • Lovett Elementary School
  • Mahalia Jackson Elementary School
  • Northside College Prep High School
  • Peck Elementary School
  • Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School
  • Ruiz Elementary School
  • Skinner North Elementary School
  • Tonti Elementary School
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