Chicago Public Schools has more than $20 million of unspent money that it could use to help close its $129 million budget hole.
Almost 200 principals asked for a share of the funds, which are set aside for special education services, but only $3.5 million was doled out to 43 schools, according to information obtained from CPS through a Freedom of Information Act.
The principals had said they needed the money for hundreds of additional aides and teachers to provide required services to special education students and not jeopardize the education quality of other students.
CPS said in a statement they had been able to resolve most of the needs by working with principals to “prioritize the needs of diverse learners.”
According to a WBEZ analysis, the district’s small number of majority white schools got a disproportionate amount. CPS did not comment on the racial disparity.
Troy LaRaviere, head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, called this withholding a backdoor budget cut, and said the racial disparity reflects the district knowing “who they can get away with doing this with.”
“In terms of a decision making point of view, the people in power know who does and who does not have institutional power,” he said.
When CPS’ spending plan for this school year was laid out this summer, leaders swore they were not cutting school budgets or special education funding. However, they said they were holding onto 4 percent of each school’s special education budget with the promise that the district would release it to the schools if principals could prove they needed it.