CPS high schools see more money but nearly half of elementary budgets cut

High schools were the biggest beneficiaries of an influx of federal cash, while enrollment drops led to less money for many schools.

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CPS CEO Pedro Martinez speaks at Harriet Tubman Elementary School at 2851 N Seminary Ave in Lakeview, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Amid steep enrollment declines across Chicago Public Schools, 40% of buildings are seeing their budgets slashed next year despite an infusion of federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The budgets released Friday identify how much money each principal will be given to spend at their individual school. A districtwide, centralized budget will be released later this summer and will include money for building renovations and other special projects.

The median CPS school received $80,984 more for next year than this year, district data shows. But the range of budget cuts was wide for the 205 schools that lost money, from as little as $4,037 for Joplin Elementary in Auburn Gresham to $894,304 at Zapata Elementary in Little Village. Ten schools lost more than a half-million from their budgets, and 146 lost six-figures.

High schools generally saw larger increases than elementary schools. And only 18% of high schools saw cuts while 46% of elementary schools did.

Meanwhile, 308 schools received an influx of cash, from as little as $116 at Oriole Park Elementary on the Northwest Side to $2.8 million at Taft High School after it saw 150 new students.

Of 84 district-run, non-charter high schools, 61 received six-figure increases and seven had their budgets jump by over $1 million. Budgets increased by more than $100,000 for 167 of 413 elementary schools.

CPS enrollment has dropped for a decade straight to 330,000 this year, largely in early grades as younger families move out of the city.

Though CPS stuck with the much-maligned student-based budgeting formula — which ties school budgets to the number of students they enroll — officials put less money into that bucket of funding. Instead, the district is paying for $72 million in teacher positions and $50 million in after-school and summer programs rather than having principals pick and choose what they can afford.

That strategy is part of a shift in focus to funding priority needs, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez told reporters in a virtual briefing Friday, such as hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes and split-grade classes, providing teacher development and supporting art programming.

CPS is also spending $39 million more on special education, $21 million to hire more nurses, social workers and case managers as laid out in the Chicago Teachers Union contract, an additional $7 million for athletic director positions at schools with high numbers of kids playing sports and $3 million for bilingual programs.

“These budgets will prioritize key areas for every school as a part of a commitment to equity across our district,” Martinez said.

“I want our parents to be able to expect that we’re going to continue to push down class sizes. … We want to make sure that every child has access to the arts programming, as well as specialty classes like gym, and other extracurriculars.”

Martinez’s predecessor, Janice Jackson, had tried to offset schools’ enrollment declines with so-called “equity grants” over the past few years, moving closer to an evidence-based funding formula that the state uses to give schools money based on their students’ needs and hardship in their communities. The new budget includes $50 million of that spending, down from $85 million last year.

“We put some safeguards to limit the reduction,” Martinez said. “We didn’t want any school to not have resources for intervention teachers, arts classes, or smaller class sizes.”

Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said the slashed budgets for 40% of schools represented “callousness and neglect” by CPS officials.

“CPS officials have been robbing our students of critical resources for far too long,” he said in a statement. “As we emerge from this pandemic our children need their school budget increased. However, CPS has decided to slash them once again.”

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