Several alderpeople questioned and criticized the proposed school-level cuts in Chicago Public School’s fiscal year 2023 budget during a subject matter hearing Thursday before the City Council’s Committee on Education and Child Development.
District data shows the average increase for schools receiving more funding was about $330,000. But the average cut to schools losing funding was more than $220,000, with 177 schools losing at least $100,000.
Those cuts would come on the heels of deep enrollment declines across the system. Nearly 25,000 students have left CPS since 2020, and more than 11,000 of those students are Latino.
During Thursday’s hearing, Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) said CPS is forcing principals to choose which programs and positions to keep or cut.
“Why are we cutting positions in schools if the money to be able to retain those positions is there?” she asked. “We just went through a pandemic, our students need more support than ever, so even if we’re losing enrollment we know that the children that are left in that school are going to need more supports.”
Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova described the district’s budget as “complex,” and said because of declining enrollment across the district, various funding streams have been affected.
According to district officials, CPS is actually spending $130 million more on schools than it did last year. While schools will collectively see a $60 million drop in enrollment-based funding, the district said schools will see increases in special education funding ($45 million in new dollars), professional development ($45 million) and district-funded teacher positions ($42 million).
CPS in FY23 will also provide $14 million more in equity grants — bumping that total up to $50 million — to help fund schools with declining enrollment. CPS officials said no schools will see further cuts if they don’t meet enrollment projections after the 20th day next school year, while those who exceed their projections could see additional funding.
“We recognize the needs that our schools have right now,” Chkoumbova said. “The goal is to make sure that our funding is equitably distributed across the district.”
The district said it has spent around $1.1 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding to ensure reasonable class sizes, limited classroom splits and universal access to arts, among other things. CPS expects to spend $600 million in ESSER funding in its 2023 budget.
The lone public speaker during the hearing, Wade Chan, said budget cuts at his child’s school, Haines Elementary in Chinatown, have resulted in seven lost staff positions.
“We’re not asking for an additional anything, just save our teachers” he said. “We’re not asking for more, we’re just asking for the status quo.”
Chkoumbova told alderpeople on Thursday that it will be a “long journey” to finalize and solidify funding for programming and staffing at all schools across the city.
Ald. Maria Hadden (49th Ward) called that answer “unacceptable.” She said city officials are ready and willing to help CPS, but noted the district has to do more to ensure schools are able to provide a baseline level of services to students.
“You need to work with us and we want to make this be less complicated,” she said. “We want to take away some of this complication because it’s too much, and not enough at the same time.”
Alds. Sanchez, Hadden and Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) demanded that Education Committee Chair Ald. Michael Scott hold Thursday’s hearing, which is the first time the panel has met since September 2021.
The committee’s 2022 budget is $181,806, according to city records.
All three alderpeople are members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, and have been highly critical of Chicago Public Schools operations.
Heather Cherone and Erica Gunderson contributed to this report.