Chicago School Budget Picture Beginning To Get Clearer | WBEZ
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Chicago School Budget Picture Beginning To Get Clearer

Late Tuesday evening, Chicago Public Schools released school budget data that shows principals are going into this school year with $144 million less to spend than they had last year.

District leaders previously said that principals should be relieved when they finally received their budgets---months after they typically do in April. Those leaders argue that because the budgets are similar to cuts that were imposed in February, principals shouldn’t have to make many changes now.

However, principals have insisted that they dealt with those mid-year by using reserves, shifting funds from other budgets of money, such as supplies or technology, and fundraising. Now, they say they have exhausted all pots of money and will have to cut teachers and staff to balance budgets.

Once again, neighborhood high schools are being hit the hardest. They are projected to lose overall about 1,600 students and see about $41.5 million less.

The two high schools with the biggest losses in both students and money are Schurz and Foreman High schools. Each of them are slated to lose about 200 students and more than $2 million.

Both Foreman Principal Dan Zimmerman and Schurz Principal Dan Kramer announced their resignations earlier this year. Zimmerman said he left CPS because he was worried about budget cuts.

The district’s nine selective enrollment high schools are projected to enroll about 470 more students, but to get about $1.4 million less. Lane Tech College Prep is supposed to see about 160 more students, but get half a million less. It is unclear why this is happening.

Neighborhood and magnet elementary schools also don’t fare too well in this budget. They are projected to get about 3,500 fewer students and lose as much as $81 million. That is a five percent cut.

Charter schools are projected to see a three percent increase in students--to about 55,000 and to get about $155,000 more from CPS.

This is a drastic change from the past decade when the district was opening charter schools yearly and the number of student, as well as their payments from CPS, went up exponentially.

For almost a week, WBEZ and other media have been asking for information that would allow parents and community members to see how their school was doing this September versus last September.

Principals complained that without comparable information it was hard to explain to parents why budget cuts were taking place.

Then, late Tuesday, CPS officials changed their minds and sent out comparable data.

However, the district still has not released information showing the difference between what was budgeted for special education last year compares to what it plans to spend this year. CPS officials decided to drastically change the way the district is doling out money to schools for special education this year. Principals say they are trying to figure out how this change will impact their entire budget.

Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @sskedreporter or @wbezeducation

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