Sports complex, science labs and new high school highlight CPS’ proposed $8.4B budget

The budget is $700 million larger than last year’s, which at the time was the most expensive in CPS history.

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson discussed the district’s new proposed budget during an online news conference Monday.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson discussed the district’s new proposed budget during an online news conference Monday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

A new $8.4 billion budget proposed Monday by Chicago Public Schools officials includes millions for renovated high school science labs, a new Near South Side high school and a South Side sports complex.

The spending plan also devotes more money to improving school building access for the disabled and sets aside another $75 million for the district’s response to the coronavirus, with significant assumptions that more federal funding is on the way.

The budget, which comes during a period of financial uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic and on the heals of a massive new labor contract with the Chicago Teachers Union, is $700 million larger than last year’s, which at the time was the most expensive in CPS history.

In all, CPS is investing $653 million for building improvements and special projects at more than 250 schools, with priority given to under-resourced communities, the district said. A little more than $300 million is going to neighborhood schools for infrastructure repairs, including $9 million for renovated bathrooms, which will be prioritized this year.

About $20 million will go toward ADA accessibility at 36 schools, CPS said, with another $80 million promised in the next five years to make the first floor of every school accessible to those with disabilities.

The science lab initiative includes $30 million for 31 schools, rounding out a $78 million investment that started two years ago to build modern labs at 75 high schools.

Plans will also take shape for a new $50 million sports complex on the South Side, the district said. A location is still being finalized and input will be taken from the community on programming and sports offerings. Close by on the Near South Side, another $50 million is included for a new Chinatown high school that the state legislature allocated money for in the spring. Community meetings will be held later this year to start that process.

CPS in the spring unveiled its school-level budget — which was also included in Monday’s release — that sent $125 million more to principals than last year. The district’s operating budget will be $6.9 billion.

Additional federal funding assumed

The $75 million budgeted for pandemic response is separate from the $75 million in emergency spending approved by the Board of Education in the spring. Those previous expenses will be covered by $206 million the district is set to receive from the federal CARES Act that was passed in the spring, with $78 million going toward last year’s coronavirus-related expenses and $128 million going to the new fiscal year.

The district’s new budget relies on $343 million in additional federal funding — aside from the CARES Act — to help ease the burden of COVID-19 expenses and revenue shortfalls. Officials said that amount is a safe assumption and comes in less than the figure CPS would receive in the most conservative Congressional plan.

CPS officials said they expect state funding to remain the same this year, bucking pre-pandemic expectations that Gov. J.B. Pritzker would increase his allocation to education.

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