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New package of ordinances aims to increase CPS per pupil funding

Andrea Ortiz, a Chicago Public Schools alumna, along with members of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and other community organizations, called on CPS to increase its per-pupil funding by $1,000. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools students, parents and Local School Council members united Wednesday to protest the struggling district’s recent round of budget cuts and call for an increase to its per-student funding.

About two dozen community organizers gathered outside CPS headquarters, 1 N. Dearborn St., before a meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. They were there to tout a package of ordinances that would increase per student funding in CPS by $1,000, and called on the CPS board to work with City Council to pass the ordinances and funnel the extra money into the broke school district.

“Our children deserve to have small class sizes, teachers who are not afraid of being laid off and schools with enough funding for extracurricular programs and support. For this to be possible, we must increase per pupil funding in Chicago,” said Donna Lechel, a local school council member at Shields Middle School.

Donna Lechel, a member of the Shields Middle School local school council, discussed the impact of Chicago Public Schools’ budget cuts on Shields and called for more funding. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times<br>
Donna Lechel, a member of the Shields Middle School local school council, discussed the impact of Chicago Public Schools’ budget cuts on Shields and called for more funding. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

If passed, the “progressive revenue package” would funnel tax increment financing funds to CPS and increase the employee “head tax” and personal property lease tax to generate additional school funding. It has already gained support from a handful of aldermen, including Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), George Cardenas (12th), Matt O’Shea (19th) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

CPS released individual school budgets on July 14 that included a per-student funding rate of $4,087, which is the same as when school budgets were cut in February.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposed these cuts a week later during a protest at City Hall, and the district later said it would accept formal appeals for more money starting Aug. 1. But organizers want a more permanent solution.

“We aren’t asking for much. Just enough to avoid cuts this year and slowly begin to reinvest in our neighborhood schools,” said Michelle Leon, a student at Kelly High School.

Michelle Leon, a student representative on the Kelly High School local school council, speaks during a Wednesday press conference outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Michelle Leon, a student representative on the Kelly High School local school council, speaks during a Wednesday press conference outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Lechel said Shields Middle School is expected to lose around $198,000 in budget cuts, resulting in the loss of 3–4 staff positions, larger class sizes and reduced programming. Increasing per student funding by $1,000 would give the school an additional $600,000 in new revenue and prevent teacher layoffs, she said.

Joy Clendenning, a local school council member at Kenwood Academy High School, said the budget cuts will force the school to reduce the hours its building is open, cut transportation for athletic teams and preforming groups, and cut supplies for its art program.

“This begs the question of what the real losses are, not just for Kenwood, but across the district,” Clendenning said. “We will continue to push Springfield for fair funding, but we need CPS and the city to do their part.”

After the press conference, several organizers went inside to speak at the board meeting.

Joy Clendenning, a member of the Local School Council at Kenwood Academy High School, urged the Chicago Public Schools board of education to work with City Council to increase the district’s per-pupil funding. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Joy Clendenning, a member of the Local School Council at Kenwood Academy High School, urged the Chicago Public Schools board of education to work with City Council to increase the district’s per-pupil funding. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times