Parent group: CPS is spreading resources too thin

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From the time Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced there were 100,000 “empty” seats in public schools, CPS will have added 21,481 new seats and 42 new charter and alternative high schools by fall, according to the parent group Raise Your Hand.

This expansion is spreading resources too thin in the district that plans to add more than 9,000 new seats this fall though overall enrollment declined by 3,000, said Raise Your Hand leader Wendy Katten, gearing up for CPS budget hearings Wednesday evening.

“We’re making the point that they keep opening seats when there’s shrinking enrollment and we have about as many schools as we had when” they closed schools in June 2013, Katten said. “They’re continuing to create a utilization crisis.”

Spending in district-operated schools is down $67.7 million in the proposed 2015 budget while spending on charter schools is going up $62 million, according to an infographic the group presented at a Monday night free budget training for about 70 people at the Eckhart Park fieldhouse.

CPS doles out money to schools based on enrollment so charter enrollment overall is projected to rise by about 3,400 students while district-run schools are losing about 3,900 students over last year, district spokesman Joel Hood said. Some schools also lost money because their state-approved school improvement grants expired or have not yet been reapproved by the Illinois State Board of Education, he said.

In September 2012, weeks before Byrd-Bennett announced plans to examine school utilization, the district added 4,365 seats at 10 charter schools. In September 2013 when 48 neighborhood schools didn’t reopen, CPS added 7,692 seats at 11 charters and five alternative high schools, and this fall, the district plans to open 9,224 seats at nine charters, seven alternative high schools and several existing selective enrollment high schools.

The hearings are each 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, with registration to speak opening at 5 p.m. at Wilbur Wright College Events Building Theater, 4300 N. Narragansett; Kennedy King College Theater, 740 West 63rd Street; and Malcolm X College Theater, 1900 West Van Buren.

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