CPS Relents, Returns $15 Million To Poorest Chicago Schools

CPS Board of Education photo from Jan. 26, 2017. Andrew Gill / WBEZ
CPS Board of Education photo from Jan. 26, 2017. Andrew Gill / WBEZ

CPS Relents, Returns $15 Million To Poorest Chicago Schools

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The Chicago Public Schools reversed course Friday afternoon, saying it will restore $15 million in mid-year budget cuts to schools with high numbers of poor students.

This came two days after 16 of 18 members of the district’s Latino Advisory Committee quit to protest the cuts that had hit Latino students particularly hard

In general, schools serving poor and minority students faced the largest cuts in a budget approved by the Board of Education on Wednesday. 

“We want to recognize the effort that City Hall is making to restore critically needed funds for CPS students. However, we are deeply disturbed by the lack of engagement that led to the proposed cuts,” committee members who resigned said in a statement. 

“The decision to responsibly fund these schools, ultimately proving that these students are worth the same investment as their peers in more affluent communities, is a good start but certainly not a solution to improving an education system riddled with disparities.”

CPS said it also would return $3 million to the city’s public charter schools.

The school system said it doesn’t know where it will get the $18 million, but felt compelled to act after the outcry this week. CPS earlier in the week had only promised an appeals process for impacted schools.

“We heard strong concerns from members of both the African-American and Hispanic communities,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson wrote in a letter to principals on Friday. “While we cannot make this freeze equal in all schools, we want to be responsive to those concerns and mitigate the most disproportionate impacts.”

The school system had amended its budget to reflect this latest round of cuts, trimming more than $100 million from its budget. About half of that came from freezing school discretionary spending accounts for individual schools. That’s what prompted the protests.

But even after those cuts, CPS was still facing a budget hole of $111 million that must be filled by June. With the reversal on Friday, that amount climbs to $129 million.

Without a victory in our lawsuit against the State of Illinois for equal funding or without a deal in Springfield this spring, our choices to close this deficit only become more painful,” CPS said in a statement.

This latest budget crisis was triggered by Governor Bruce Rauner’s December veto of $215 million that the district had been counting on. That fell apart when lawmakers failed to pass state pension reforms.

Rauner’s office it was pleased CPS reversed its “terrible decision” to cut from the neediest schools and urged Claypool to help work toward a long-term funding solution for Chicago and the state.

“Now is the time for CEO Claypool to engage in a constructive process to pass a balanced budget with changes that would help schools across the state, including those in Chicago,” Beth Purvis, Rauner’s education secretary, said in a statement.