Enrollment Decline Sets Stage For More Cuts To Chicago Classrooms
District officials said fewer students are enrolling in the city’s public schools.
Preliminary numbers show there may be as many as 13,000 fewer students in Chicago Public Schools. Official data won’t be available until next week, but the decline will have significant impacts on school budgets.
District-run schools are expected to lose $25 million across the board, with some schools losing more than $500,000. The average loss is about $50,000 per school, but about 100 schools will see an increase.
“I knew it was going to be bad, I just didn’t know it was going to be that bad,” said Wendy Katten, executive director of the parent group Raise Your Hand. “It’s really disheartening.”
A newly formed extension of the long-established parent group Raise Your Hand Action canvassed the Near North Side Tuesday morning with fliers that asked parents to oppose a new $60 million selective enrollment high school.
“People aren't dumb,” Katten said. “They know that as these (selective) schools get opened, their neighborhood high schools are being butchered.”
WBEZ first reported on the enrollment declines in neighborhood high schools in 2013. Last year, one high school enrolled just 13 freshmen, which is not enough to pay for a single teacher under the district’s budgeting system.
That school -- Austin Business and Entrepreneurship High School -- merged with two other under-enrolled schools, Austin Polytech and VOISE High School. The three schools enrolled 419 students last year. Preliminary numbers for this year show the new combined school has 302 students.
Schools struggling with enrollment also struggle to attract any new students because funding is tied directly to enrollment. If a student leaves, the school loses money.
A press release sent by CPS late Monday estimated the latest round of cuts would mean about 300 teachers and staff could be laid off. The layoffs come at a time of tense negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education. On Wednesday, the union’s House of Delegates is expected to vote on whether to call a strike.
If the governing body approves of a walk out, they could also authorize union leadership to issue a 10-day strike notice, as required by law. The authorization doesn’t automatically mean they will give the 10-day notice, but if they do so right away, the soonest a walkout could happen would be Oct. 10.
Before the union meets, the Chicago Board of Education will hold its monthly meeting, where they plan to vote on several new school construction projects, as well as a $2 million, 5-year contract with the Academy for Urban School Leadership for teacher training and professional development.
Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @wbezeducation.