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CPS Increases School Budgets by More Than $125 Million with Additional Resources to Advance Equity Throughout the District

28 April 2020

School Year 2020-21 Budgets Include Additional Resources and Improvements Informed by Citywide Public Engagement Effort

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Budget Highlights

Key investments for the 2020-21 school year include:

  • $97 million in additional special education funding to advance equity and meet student needs;
  • $44 million in Equity Grants to support high-needs schools and ensure all students are able to access a high-quality education;
  • $18 million to expand access to free full-day Pre-K;
    $13 million in additional funding to increase nurse, social worker and case manager staffing levels to an all-time high in the district; and
  • $5 million in funding to provide students at neighborhood schools with access to programs that promote college and career readiness.

CHICAGO — Following an extensive community engagement effort launched earlier this school year to identify potential opportunities to strengthen school budgeting, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today released school budgets for the 2020-2021 school year, which provide more than an additional $125 million and prioritize resources for the schools and students who need them most. School budgets for next year will provide schools a comprehensive set of supports to advance equity, enhance college and career readiness supports, expand access to free Pre-K, meet the needs of diverse learners, and increase nurse, social worker and case manager staffing levels to an all-time high in the district.

“As we work to support students and educators in the transition to remote learning for the remainder of the academic year, we must also look forward and ensure schools are ready for a successful fall,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “Given the challenges many of our families are facing due to COVID-19, it is more important than ever to invest in the high-quality schools our students deserve. By prioritizing investments that advance equity and support our most vulnerable students, we are working during this most challenging time to help our schools protect the considerable progress they have made.”

Today’s announcement is the first part of the FY21 budget process, which will culminate with the release of the district’s full operating budget this summer. CPS is closely monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 crisis to determine its potential impact on the district’s financial position. Based on current expectations about the district’s financial outlook, CPS does not anticipate making modifications to the plan released today.

Stronger School Budgets Through Impactful Community Engagement

The school budgets released today build on improvements made to the school budgeting process in recent years by incorporating feedback provided through an extensive community engagement process undertaken by the district.

In July 2019, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and CPS leadership announced a multi-year commitment to further strengthen school budgeting by engaging the community to identify opportunities to promote greater equity in school budgeting. As a result, the district held six community budget forums earlier this school year to discuss the budgeting process and gather feedback. A diverse School Funding Working Group — consisting of Board of Education members, principals, LSC members and philanthropic leaders, among others — was assembled to evaluate feedback from the community meetings and develop a series of recommendations for the district.

The School Funding Working Group’s recommendations, which were released today, provide a series of short and long-term recommendations to promote greater equity and better support school communities. As a result of these recommendations, the district is taking steps through the FY21 school budget process to enhance support for high-needs schools and better support principals through the budgeting process.

The full Working Group report can be found here.

$44 Million in Equity Grants for High-Needs Schools

For the second consecutive year, CPS school budgets include additional funding for the schools that need our support most. As part of last year’s budgeting process, the district provided $31 million in equity grants to 219 schools to help ensure every student has access to a high-quality education. To build on the success of the initial equity grants, the district is increasing equity grant funding to $44 million, which will support 255 CPS schools.

Public feedback and recommendations from the School Funding Working Group played an important role in expanding the equity grant program to both reach more schools and provide additional funding to the schools that need it most. Beginning this year, the district is increasing the maximum equity grant a school can receive, with the largest grant reaching nearly $700,000 and the average grant providing $174,000. To further support the schools who need the greatest assistance, the district is now providing an additional $100,000 allocation to support positions dedicated to high-quality instruction at the more than 100 schools in the highest-need areas of the city. In alignment with the Working Group’s recommendation, the district is utilizing the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Economic Hardship Index to target resources for schools in the 12 areas of greatest need.

“Advancing equity in our schools and lifting up the students and families who need us most is essential to the growth of our city,” said CPS Chief Equity Officer Maurice Swinney. “We are building on our inaugural equity grants by providing additional resources guided by community input, and we will continue to leverage all opportunities to make Chicago Public Schools the most equitable big city school district in the country.”

College and Career Readiness Supports for Neighborhood Schools

For the first time, CPS is budgeting $5 million to provide students in grades 9-12 with access to specialized college and career readiness programming.

Prior to the new school year, all neighborhood schools will have the opportunity to opt into a new program offered by an external partner that will provide targeted resources for students and ensure they have the supports needed to successfully navigate high school and graduate prepared for success in the higher education or career pathway of their choice.

“Chicago Public Schools is preparing more students than ever before for success after graduation, and in order to continue that progress and prepare even more of our students for the bright future they deserve we must expand the resources and supports that go above and beyond for our students,” said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “By providing all of our neighborhood schools with new programming to lift up their students and prepare more of our learners for success, we will help ensure that the district’s record-breaking progress continues.”

The $5 million in supports will be budgeted centrally and included in the district’s FY21 operating budget. Later this year, the district will allow neighborhood high schools to opt into the program of their choice so that students can benefit from additional guidance that will prepare more students for success.

More CPS Nurses, Social Workers and Case Managers than Ever Before

In July 2019, Mayor Lightfoot and CPS leadership announced a commitment to boost full-time nurse, social worker, and case manager staffing levels to an all-time high and provide a nurse in every school by the 2023-24 school year. These commitments were memorialized in the historic contract reached by CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this school year, and a significant step toward that commitment will be made in the coming school year.

In SY21, CPS is budgeting $13 million to hire 55 additional nurses, 44 additional social workers and 40 additional special education case managers. These will result in a total of 426 nurse, 536 school social worker, and 163.5 special education case manager positions, which will each be a record high for the district.

Case manager positions are allocated directly to schools and those funds appear in the school budgets principals are receiving today. Nurse and social worker positions are budgeted centrally and will be included as part of the district’s FY21 operating budget.

44 Additional Free, Full-Day Pre-K Classrooms as City Moves Closer to Universal Pre-K

CPS is investing an additional $18 million to add 44 free full-day Pre-K classrooms and serve 900 additional students next year. To ensure these classrooms and all Pre-K classrooms have the resources they need to support our young learners, every full-day Pre-K classroom will receive a supplemental stipend of $8,500 next year.

The 44 additional classrooms will be located in 14 priority communities to build on the 28 high-needs communities that were prioritized in the 2019-20 school year for free Pre-K. As a result of this expansion, more than half of the city’s 77 community areas will offer universal Pre-K for four-year-olds next year.

The expansion of Pre-K in SY21 prioritizes students with special needs, increasing full-day access for four-year-old diverse learners by over 50 percent. As a result, the number of full-day blended Pre-K classrooms will increase from 67 rooms to 103 rooms next school year.

Largest-Ever Diverse Learner Funding Increase

CPS is committed to providing diverse learners with the resources they need to be successful, and the school budgets released today include a $97 million increase in special education funding, which is the largest one-year budget increase in diverse learner spending on record.

Based on feedback from public engagement sessions, collaboration with advocates, and the district’s work with the Illinois State Board of Education, CPS is instituting a consistent methodology for allocating special education positions. In prior years, special education allocations were determined based on a review of each school’s needs, which led to a high level of mid-year corrections and the potential for inconsistent allocations among schools. By transitioning to a consistent methodology for all schools, the district will better ensure that schools have the resources they need at the beginning of the year — reducing the need for mid-year appeals — and that those resources are distributed in an equitable manner.

As a result of these changes and additional student needs identified throughout the school year, special education funding is increasing significantly on the whole. But while a majority of schools will see an increase in special education positions, the district is utilizing a one-year loss cap to ensure a smooth adjustment to the updated methodology.

Academic Program Expansion to Occur Later this Year

Earlier this school year, CPS opened its second annual program application process, which allows school communities to apply for the high-quality academic programs of their choice. Although the COVID-19 crisis prevented the district from completing the application evaluation process in time for the release of school budgets, the district remains committed to awarding new programs to high-quality applicants prior to the start of the new school year.

All programs that were awarded through the inaugural program application process remain funded in FY21 budgets, and additional programs awarded this year will be added to school budgets prior to the fall.

Support for Principals and LSCs to Promote Stability

In the 2020-21 school year, CPS is increasing the Student Based Budgeting (SBB) rate by 3 percent to align with the teacher salary increase in the CTU contract.

Since Dr. Jackson became the district’s CEO in 2018, CPS has utilized a funding methodology that bases funding levels for the upcoming school year on fall enrollment from the current school year to ensure funding levels will not be reduced in the fall if enrollment drops. While the budgets released today will not be adjusted down if enrollment drops, schools will receive additional funding if their enrollment on the 10th day of the new school year exceeds their enrollment on the 20th day of the 2019-20 school year.

CPS transitioned to this funding approach because it provides school leaders with certainty about the resources that will be available next school year. To provide principals with even greater support this year, the district is acting on recommendations from the School Funding Working Group to provide additional budgeting assistance to principals following the release of funding allocations. For the first time, the district’s School Support Center and Budget Office will provide all new principals, as well as other principals who need additional support, with one-on-one consultations to ensure they are able to optimize their funding allocations and prepare their schools for a successful year.

In line with the recommendation from the School Funding Working Group to better empower Local School Councils (LSCs) during the budget process, the district will be providing school leaders for the first time with templates to fully brief their LSCs on their specific budget allocation. And to ensure LSCs can play an active role in supporting the use of equity grants, LSCs will be briefed on how their school proposes to use their equity grant prior to approval of their budget.

Equitable Charter Funding and Increased Transparency into Charter Operations

For the second consecutive year, charter schools are also receiving funding through an SBB model that ensures schools are funded based on the needs of their students. Charter schools are receiving the same 3 percent SBB increase as district schools, which results in a $5 million increase in total charter funding compared to the 2019-20 school year.

To provide the public with greater insight into charter school finances and operations, the district today launched its first Charter Data Portal, which allows members of the public to easily find and access a wide variety of public documents including contracts, financial reports, and board meeting notes, among other resources.

Chicago Public Schools serves 355,000 students in 642 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.

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*The total number of case manager positions has been updated since this release originally posted.