CPS unveils $9.3 billion budget proposal for 2022 fiscal year

CPS’ budget draft, which would increase spending by $900 million, comes eight days into interim CEO José Torres’ tenure.

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Former Elgin schools superintendent José Torres speaks to reporters after Mayor Lori Lightfoot named him interim CEO for Chicago Public Schools during a news conference at Richardson Middle School on the Southwest Side, Monday afternoon, June 14, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday unveiled its $9.3 billion budget for the 2022 fiscal year, which includes more than $1 billion in federal relief funding that will aid the nation’s third-largest district as it begins to move forward from the pandemic.

CPS’ budget draft, which is almost an 11% increase from last year’s financial blueprint, aims to equitably help schools after more than a year of online learning, district officials said. However, the Chicago Teachers Union pushed back and said the plan falls short in investing in students’ actual needs.

Under the proposal, which is covers spending from July 1 to June 30 of next year, the district plans to use a portion of federal money for its two-year, $525 million plan dubbed the “Moving Forward Together Initiative.”

In the first year, CPS is expected to allocate $267 million of federal money to support students’ social and emotional needs as they return full-time to classrooms with another goal of positioning them for future success. District officials said those funds will go toward hiring and training literacy and math tutors, bolstering behavior and mental health teams and upgrading technology, especially in Black and Brown communities, which were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Here’s a breakdown of the proposed usage of other federal funding:

  • $132 million to supporting students as they return to the classroom, covering technology costs, PPE, cleaning supplies, vaccine efforts and other costs that might arise during the transition
  • $100 million to support projects that improve air quality
  • $288 million to boost school-based programmatic investments
  • $178 million to fund school-based instructional positions
  • $95 million to provide a proportionate share of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding to charter and contract schools

“This budget invests in meeting the needs ... that our students face today, while setting them up for success in the future,” newly appointed interim CEO José Torres said in his opening remarks during a video conference call. “We’re confident that the investments we are making will accelerate learning while giving our students the tools they need to heal socially and emotionally from the trauma of the past year.”

Additionally, the proposal includes more than $225 million in additional funding for school budgets.

CPS also plans to spend $672 million in equitable capital investments to ensure schools are well-equipped to welcome students back full-time this fall. That money will go toward critical building repairs and modernization efforts, ADA accessibility, IT infrastructure and capital upgrades to support modern learning environments, district officials said.

The district expects to distribute more than $328 million for improvements at more than 90 schools. Those projects include rebuilding roofs and mechanical infrastructure, stabilizing chimneys and replacing fire alarms.

Another $100 million in federal funding is expected to go to 17 schools in need of mechanical renovations, including improving heating and cooling systems well as associated electrical and plumbing infrastructure.

A CPS spokesperson said none of the restoration projects under this proposal will begin until after the budget is goes before the Board of Education on July 28.

“We are staying focused on what matters and as providing an equitable, high-quality education for every child, regardless of the zip code, race or country of origin,” Chief Equity Officer Maurice Swinney said. “This budget balances the unique needs of today’s students with a bright future that we all see for our youth after COVID-19 is finally behind us.”

CPS officials did not answer questions on how much the budget sets aside for its contract with the Chicago Police Department. Local School Councils at more than 50 high schools are voting this summer on whether to keep officers in their schools.

News of the proposed budget comes a little over a week into interim Torres’ tenure. He said the budget planning began a year in advance and that it was “pretty much completed” by the time he took office last Monday.

“I did not change anything on the budget,” the former Elgin schools superintendent said.

In a statement, CTU was critical of the district’s budget, saying the additional federal funding should be used to address hardships students and their families face that have been amplified by the pandemic, including housing and income insecurity, racial disinvestment and decades of educational inequity.

CTU called the district’s student-based budgeting formula “backwards” and claimed it’s driving inequity. The union wants to see more money go to adding a nurse and social worker in every school, improving HVAC systems to improve air quality, creating in-school student vaccination programs and ensuring every student has a computer and reliable internet access at school and home.

“This level of investment from the federal government should mark the beginning of ongoing sustainable funding for schools at a much higher level — the level our students and school communities need and deserve,” the statement said. “The mayor should be at the forefront of advocating for sustainable school funding, and not just temporary recovery dollars.She has the ability to address all of these needs — and it’s time for her to find the political will to deliver on providing every Chicago student and family with the right to recovery.”

The district will hold a series of budget and capital hearings later this month. The first one is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 20.

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