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CPS budget system snafu hits as principals scramble on spending plans

Chicago Public Schools principals, racing to complete school budgets on a tight deadline with just weeks before school starts, had their hands tied Friday as the budgeting software they use got shut down.

Problems with schools budgets at CPS-run schools, as well as charter schools, emerged Thursday shortly after budget briefings concluded, principals told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Some principals said their schools’ numbers in the budgeting system didn’t match what they’d been given on paper. Others couldn’t get into the budgeting software, known as Hyperion.

As of Friday, it still wasn’t clear whether Hyperion crashed or had to be taken offline. It was restored at about 1 p.m., a principal said.

Principals received an email later Friday saying CPS had “addressed those issues and Hyperion is back on line.”

That same email said principals’ deadline for submitting their budgets had been extended about a day — until 3 p.m. Thursday.

Despite the problems, the email noted that: “Most importantly, all your individual line item allocations are accurate and will remain the same.”

However, the email noted, the problems meant that the figures that had been listed for total funds and the change in allocations were inaccurate.

Meanwhile, though, the shutdown prevented CPS from publishing school-by-school numbers that families and school communities eagerly await; a CPS spokeswoman said late Friday that those numbers now would be released Monday morning.

Normally a day’s delay — or even two — wouldn’t matter in a typical budget process. But CPS, which presented its school-based budgets for the coming school year later than it ever has, faces a Sept. 1 state deadline for approving its entire operating budget of about $6 billion.

The late-July timing also complicates things for Local School Councils, which need to be assembled to sign off on individual school spending plans.

Chicago schools chief Forrest Claypool indicated Thursday he’d reveal CPS’s full operating plan, which counts on money from the state that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he’ll veto, on Aug. 7.