Boosted by Federal COVID Relief Funds, Chicago Public Schools Unveils $9.5 Billion Budget Proposal

Students at Chicago Public Schools walk along a hallway in this file photo. (WTTW News)Students at Chicago Public Schools walk along a hallway in this file photo. (WTTW News)

Chicago Public Schools officials have unveiled a $9.5 billion budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year that includes more than $700 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars to help fund early childhood programs, teacher positions and grants for under-utilized schools.

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The new proposal, which is the first under current CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, will increase school-level funding to $4.6 billion — a jump of more than $240 million over the current budget — and add more than 1,600 new full-time positions across the city in the 2023 fiscal year.

“These investments will set the foundation for what CPS students can expect in classrooms, from reasonable class sizes to more staff members working to tap the full potential of our bright and talented children,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “With this budget, our unstoppable students will stand ready to compete and collaborate in their communities, with their schools and beyond.”

Those new positions include 524 teaching spots, 745 school support staff, such as classroom paraprofessionals, case managers, security guards, and 155 other student support personnel.

While CPS has touted an overall increase in its school-level funding, parents, community leaders and some city officials have criticized budget cuts at schools that have seen declining enrollment, calling on the district to do more to ensure students are getting the education and support they need.

Many have also slammed the district’s continued reliance on student-based budgeting, which allocates funds to individual schools based on their enrollment numbers. CPS officials earlier this spring said they’ve moved to a hybrid funding formula, less than half of which is calculated through student-based budgeting.

The Chicago Teachers Union took aim at Lightfoot, saying the mayor is “launching her re-election bid by balancing the city budget on the backs of children who need more instead of less.”

“Chicago Public Schools students and families have dealt with two years of trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the trauma many of them face from gun violence, discrimination, regressive fines and fees, and neglect of their communities,” the union said in a statement. “They’ve had enough of ‘tough.’ What they need is recovery, with compassionate, competent leadership that is leading that recovery — not cuts to their schools and classrooms.”

CPS is planning to provide $50 million in equity grants — an increase of $14 million — to help fund 238 under-enrolled schools, as well as another $5 million to help “provide stability and limit budget reductions” at schools that see more severe enrollment declines.

District officials have also said no schools will see additional 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.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government began distributing money to school districts to help support students and their families across the country through the ​​Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund.

CPS said it has allocated about 45% of the $2.8 billion it received through that fund over the last three fiscal years, and will spend another $730 million in the latest budget. That includes: $100 million for early childhood programs above what is funded through state grants; $45 million for instructional coaching and school-based professional learning; and $96 million for school-based operational positions.

The district is also using ESSER dollars to fund mental health supports and trauma-informed interventions ($13 million), student re-engagement and truancy prevention programs ($12 million) and early literacy supports ($5 million) among many other expenditures.

“We’re grateful for these additional and much-needed federal funds,” Martinez said in a statement. “We’re investing these funds strategically, setting a new foundation for success to ensure schools have the resources and capacity to move every student forward.”

Beginning next week, CPS will hold a pair of public budget hearings at its downtown headquarters, 42 W. Madison St. Those hearings will be held from 4-5:30 p.m. Monday and from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Chicago Board of Education is set to vote on the budget proposal during the monthly meeting June 22.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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