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Capital 2021

The FY2021 budget for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) includes a capital budget totaling $758 million of investments that will focus on priority facilities needs at neighborhood schools; full-day Pre-K expansions; ADA accessibility; and continued expansion of technology upgrades, modern science labs, and other academic priorities. To support schools throughout the city, the FY2021 capital plan provides funding in six main areas: critical facility needs, interior improvements, programmatic investments, overcrowding relief, site improvements, and IT and security upgrades.

CPS is committed to promoting equitable access to high-quality school environments, and equity served as the foundation for the FY2021 capital plan. The district's Equity Office played an important role in developing the FY2021 capital proposal by helping to ensure that resources are distributed fairly and equitably across CPS schools so that all students can share in the district's record-setting progress. In addition, the FY2021 capital budget planning process included several enhancements, most notably around transparency and community outreach. The district conducted five public meetings and evaluated over 800 survey responses to gather community input during the capital plan development process. 

The CPS facility portfolio includes 522 campuses and 798 buildings. Our average facility age is over 80 years old, and the total CPS facility need is over $3 billion. Since FY2016, CPS has invested over $2.1 billion into capital improvements across the district. These projects include major renovations to ensure our schools stay warm and dry, facility construction to relieve overcrowding, security cameras to provide a safer environment for our children, and renovations to aid programmatic enhancements, among others. Additionally, CPS is investing $100 million in the next five years to ensure all CPS campuses are more accessible.

The FY2021 capital budget is funded by future bond proceeds backed by Evidence-Based Funding (EBF), potential state capital funding, and potential outside resources as they become identified.

Full details on the FY2021 capital budget are available on the interactive capital plan website: The site allows users to quickly select projects by school, geographic area, type, and year.

CPS’ capital plan aligns with the priorities outlined in the draft Educational Facilities Master Plan. Future projects will be determined by equity, assessed need, educational priorities, and available funding.

Sources and Uses

Below is a summary of the sources and uses of the $758 million FY2021 capital budget by funding and project type:

Table 1: Sources and Uses (Thousands)
Estimated Sources Funding
Anticipated Bond Offerings and Other Capital Funds1 $653.0
Potential State Capital Funding $50.0
Other Potential External Funding $55.0
Total FY2021 Capital Budget Sources $758.0
Estimated Uses Funding
Facility Needs and ADA Accessibility $314.7
Educational Programming $202.0
IT, Security, & Building System Investments $37.0
Site Improvements $27.3
Overcrowding Relief $40.0
Interior Improvements $11.0
Capital Project Support Services $26.0
Potential State Capital Funded Projects $50.0
Potential Externally Funded Projects $50.0
Total FY2021 Capital Budget Uses $758.0

Funding from the State

Thanks to the support and advocacy of the dedicated elected officials in Springfield, the $758 million capital budget includes $50 million in state funding that was approved this spring as part of a larger state capital bill for school construction. This funding has been directed to CPS for the construction of a new high school to service the Chinatown, Bridgeport, and South Loop communities.

First District Equity Index to Prioritize Investments

In recent years, the district has focused on prioritizing investments that promote equitable access to high-quality learning environments. To advance this work, the district developed its first Equity Index, a new tool to help identify opportunity differences so that resources can be prioritized for the schools in greatest need. The equity index, which was informed by community feedback, was central to the development of this year’s capital plan.

Priority Facility Needs at Neighborhood Schools

Every student deserves to access a neighborhood school that is warm, safe, and dry, and CPS is allocating $306 million in funding for critical maintenance projects and interior improvements. As part of our commitment to equity, the district is prioritizing renovations at neighborhood schools throughout the city to ensure all students can learn and grow in school buildings that support high-quality learning environments. 

The FY2021 capital budget addresses the district’s priority renovation projects and most urgent facility needs. We will invest in 20 major roof and envelope projects and seven renovations to mechanical systems. Along with these projects, the funding will provide:

  • $149 million for priority roof, envelope, and mechanical projects;
  • $100 million for unanticipated emergency repairs;
  • $20 million for district maintenance priorities;
  • $14 million for masonry remediation;
  • $11 million for interior improvements;
  • $5 million for fire alarm system replacement;
  • $5 million for chimney stabilization; and
  • $2 million for critical temperature control system replacement.

Overcrowding Relief

The district’s overall building utilization average is nearly 70 percent based on the current school year. However, some buildings within the district cannot efficiently serve their currently enrolled or projected enrolled population due to limited space and require relief by way of new capacity or capacity expansion. Depending on the need, this may include a new addition or modular building. Based on the current enrollment pressures within the district, CPS will invest $40 million in FY2021 to provide overcrowding relief for Sauganash Elementary School. Sauganash is a heavily overcrowded elementary school, and 99 percent of the students who attend the school live in the neighborhood boundary.

Support for Students with Physical Limitations

We will invest $20 million to increase Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility in 36 schools as part of a multi-year program to ensure all CPS buildings have first-floor accessibility. Starting in FY2021, CPS is committing to spending $100 million over the next five years to improve accessibility of parking lots, main entrances, main offices, and public restrooms.

Expansion of Free Full-Day Pre-K

CPS is continuing to build on our commitment to provide free full-day Pre-K to all four-year-olds in Chicago by 2021. In FY2020, the district invested $120 million to complete classroom conversions in 153 classrooms for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Building on this investment, the FY2021 capital plan includes $100 million to complete the remaining expansions and classroom conversions for the 2021–22 and 2022–23 school years.

Programmatic and Technology Investments to Build Upon School Success

The FY2021 budget prioritizes high-quality educational programming in neighborhoods throughout the city. CPS is investing $102 million in building modernization to ensure all schools are able to support 21st century learning environments, including:

  • $50 million to construct a  new sports complex to serve the south and near south areas;
  • $30 million to support the third phase of high school science lab modernization––adding, upgrading, and renovating science labs in 31 high schools;
  • $22 million in building upgrades to support STEM, STEAM, IB, and world language programs at 22 schools;

Site Improvements that Foster Learning

This year’s capital budget also includes $27 million to design and build new playgrounds, playlots, and turf fields at over 25 schools across the city so that students can benefit from a well-rounded education that promotes healthy and active development.

IT and Security Infrastructure

In FY2021,  as CPS works to provide devices and home internet access to remote learning from home, we are also continuing our multi-year investment in the school Technology Modernization Program and high-speed internet for schools throughout the city. In FY21, the district is allocating $35 million to promote equity by increasing student-to-device ratios at schools in greatest need as well as addressing underlying connectivity by building and improving network infrastructure across the district.

Finally, to support student safety at every school, $2 million will fund new security equipment including cameras, intercom phones, alarms, and screening equipment.

Impact of FY2021 Capital Projects on Operating Budget

All projects considered for inclusion in the annual capital budget are analyzed for their projected impact on the district’s operating budget.

Facility Needs

Addressing facility needs not only helps the district reduce costs associated with temporary fixes, which have been increasing significantly over time, but it also helps reduce debt service payments associated with borrowing for temporary fix projects. This in turn frees up operating dollars that can be re-allocated for instruction, supports, and other district expenses.

In addition, by replacing roofs and mechanical systems with more energy efficient solutions, we will reduce our energy consumption utility costs.

Overcrowding Relief

Overcrowding alleviation projects are necessary to accommodate the changing population sizes of neighborhood schools in order to ensure productive learning environments. Adding additional square footage to the district may potentially increase operating expenses on utilities, custodial services, engineering, and security.

Educational Programming, Interior Renovations, and Site Improvements

Investments in educational programming that convert or improve existing space (e.g., new science labs, converted classrooms, upgrades for STEM) will have no appreciable impact on the operating budget because the district already accounts for the cost of maintaining these spaces. Investments in classroom technology will add operating expenses related to support and maintenance of the software and devices.

Investments that require build-outs and add physical space to an existing building, such as an addition for new Pre-K classrooms or a new turf field, will add operating expenses for utilities, custodial services, engineering, and security.

IT and Security Infrastructure

Infrastructure, hardware, or software implementation projects will not trigger any additional operating costs in the short term. Ongoing support for software-based projects will be absorbed by current available staff. Internet connectivity infrastructure projects and new security equipment will potentially add additional costs to the operating budget for maintenance and repair as time goes on; however, we expect these costs to be limited as we fit the new equipment into our current maintenance and repair allocations.

Capital Project Support Services

This allocation of funds helps to support the management of the capital budget which includes reconciling invoices; managing project and construction timelines; and ensuring the effective design, implementation, and construction of various capital projects. These services are necessary to manage a complex capital program, conduct cost estimations, meet financial and management objectives, and plan for the next phase of the district’s capital plan.

Capital Projects Fund Activity

The Summary of Capital Projects Funds table (Table 2) shows capital revenues and capital outlays (expenses) to be incurred in FY2021, regardless of the year the project was appropriated. The Fund Balance (unspent revenues received in prior years) accounts for the difference in expected capital outlays versus revenues received. For example, if the district raised $400 million in bond proceeds during a fiscal year but only expensed $300 million in the same time period, the remaining $100 million would carry forward in the Fund Balance for use during the following fiscal year.

Table 2: FY2019 - FY2021 Summary of Capital Projects Funds (Millions)
Beginning-Year Fund Balance $895.1 $716.7 $200.3
Local $63.0 $54.5 $47.4
State $13.0 $15.7 $47.3
Federal $1.0 $10.6 $10.1
Total Revenue $77.0 $79.5 $104.8
Capital Outlay $613.0 $596.4 $639.5
Bond Proceeds $356.4 $0.0 $410.0
Sales of Capital Assets $1.2 $0.5 $1.0
End-of-Year Fund Balance $716.7 $200.3 $76.6

FY2021 local capital revenue of $47.4 million includes $38.7 million in TIF-related project reimbursements and $8.8 million from other local funding sources such as aldermanic menu funds and the water reclamation district. The state revenue total of $47.3 million comprises $13.3 million in gaming revenue for new construction projects and $34 million in other potential state grants.

Federal contributions to the capital budget are expected to be $10.1 million; these contributions are driven by spending on E-rate eligible upgrades to the district’s IT infrastructure.

Table 3 outlines capital funds spent each fiscal year, by the year in which the funds were appropriated. For a more detailed view into FY2020 spending, CPS will publish a report by September 30, 2020, that offers a breakdown of funds by project, source, and other categories.

Table 3: FY2015 - FY2021 Capital Spending by Year (Millions)
  Total Appropriations FY2015A FY2016A FY2017A FY2018A FY2019AE FY2020E FY2021E Estimated Remaining Appropriation
Prior Year/Other Expenditures   $231.9 $84.9 $32.8 $6.3        
FY2015 Capital Budget $509.9 $152.6 $119.4 $42.0 $4.6 $1.7 $6.6 $0.0 $0.0
FY2016 Capital Budget $160.3   $66.8 $56.5 $18.8 $3.5 $0.2 $0.3 $0.0
FY2017 Capital Budget $937.8     $73.5 $211.5 $293.8 $163.9 $73.0 $26.0
FY2018 Capital Budget $136.2       $50.7 $37.3 $36.2 $7.9 $0.0
FY2019 Capital Budget $989.0         $276.7 $291.6 $236.0 $184.7
FY2020 Capital Budget $820.6           $97.9 $229.6 $493.1
FY2021 Capital Budget $758.0             $95.0 $663.0
Total Spend by Year   $384.5 $271.1 $204.8 $291.9 $613.0 $596.4 $641.8 $1,336.8

A=Actual E = Estimated

Note: Actual and estimated spend and estimated remaining appropriation may not sum to “Total Appropriations” column if projects came in under budget or remaining appropriation was not needed. The “Estimated Remaining Appropriation” includes both CPS funded projects and outside funded projects that have not reached completion.


  1. The Board currently expects that the proceeds of bonds will be applied to reimburse itself within 18 months after the later of (a) the date the original expenditure is paid, or (b) the date the Project is placed in service, but in no event more than three years after the original expenditure is paid.

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