Chicago Public School District to Accept Budget Appeals Amid Cuts

Published August 31, 2016

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced it will accept budget appeals made by CPS principals, who have about $140 million less in their budgets this year compared to the 2015–16 school year.

CPS allots a set amount of money to each school for each student enrolled. The Chicago Sun-Times reports CPS is projected this year to experience a drop in enrollment of about 4,600 K–12 students. CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner wrote in an e-mail to the Sun-Times, “School funding closely mirrors changes in school enrollment, with overall enrollment declining 1.4 percent and funding for individual schools declining 1.3 percent.”

Bittner said beginning August 1, schools with small enrollment figures could appeal their budgets to a CPS review committee. One week later, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool announced the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, saying in a press conference the $5.7 billion budget is balanced, “without gimmicks or without operational borrowing.” The proposed budget involves spending cuts and a call for teachers to pay the 7 percent contribution CPS now makes toward their pensions.

Claypool said in a statement, “The state stepped up, our local taxpayers stepped up, CPS has stepped up. We need the teachers to be part of the solution.”

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) immediately objected to the cuts, threatening to strike if the proposed budget is adopted. CTU President Karen Lewis said in a press conference less than an hour after Claypool’s proposal, “If the Board of Education imposes a 7 percent slash in our salaries, we will move to strike. Cutting our pay is unacceptable.”

‘Totally Mismanaged Their Money’

Ted Dabrowski, vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute, says CPS is responsible for its own budget problems and should reform its spending habits instead of seeking more money from taxpayers.

“CPS has totally mismanaged their money, and now they are looking for a bailout from taxpayers,” Dabrowski said. “Rather than looking to reforms, they are looking to taxpayers. Money is not the issue. If they want to maintain what they have, they need more money. The proper issue should be, ‘How do we improve educational outcomes for kids?'”

Dabrowski says CPS should not be talking about getting more money; it should instead be asking, “What would be the best way to do things? How do we spend money, and how do we teach kids?”

‘Unsustainable Fiscal Practices’

Lennie Jarratt, education project manager at The Heartland Institute, which publishes School Reform News, says more money cannot solve CPS’ major problems.

“CPS has a long-running history of unsustainable fiscal practices, including too many administrators, overcompensating poor-quality teaching, keeping schools with too few students open, and too much corruption,” Jarratt said. 

Tori Hart ([email protected]) is a government relations intern at The Heartland Institute.