Early look at Chicago schools budget shows $720M shortfall

March 24, 2011

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Chicago Public Schools is providing an early look at its budget for next school year.

The district gave few details Wednesday, but the overall budget picture is exactly as expected: not good.

Federal stimulus funding is running out, and school officials are putting the deficit at $720 million.

That hole is about the same as last year’s—which resulted in painful program cuts at schools, around 1,200 teacher layoffs, and frantic fundraising efforts at individual schools to pay for essentials like kindergarten teachers.

On the up side: About one-third of the deficit could disappear if the state pays schools what it owes them this year.

Interim CEO Terry Mazany is calling for “shared sacrifice.” He said the four percent raises in the current teachers contract will cost the district $80 million more next year. The school board must decide in May whether it can pay for that. If it can't, the board would be opening itself up to a potential strike from teachers.

CPS calculates that about eight percent of its operating budget is now going to pay off debt.

The district also proposed closing nine schools Wednesday. Officials say that will not solve immediate budget issues, but they say it will save money over the long term.