CHICAGO (CBS) — Summer 2017 has shifted to the rear view mirror, and it’s time for Chicago Public Schools students to go back to class.
Parents and students are starting the new school year with a bit less concern than years past.
Unlike the last few years, there is no looming threat of a teachers’ strike, and thanks to a last-minute deal to fund public schools statewide, no uncertainty about whether there will be cuts to school spending in the middle of the year.
Addie Peckler is ready and anxious to start 2nd grade. The 7-year-old East Side resident is in the gifted program at Jane Addams Elementary School, located two blocks from her home.
“We love it, and all the teachers are great,” said her mother, Rosemary Peckler.
Rosemary said it’s great not having to worry as much about whether her daughter’s school has enough money to make it through the whole year.
“I hope it stays stable. That’s all we can hope for, because you never really know,” she said.
After years of financial uncertainty, the apparent stability to start the school year is due to a statewide education bill approved by lawmakers and the governor last week. CPS would get up to $450 million more than last year under the new funding plan, if it exercises the authority to raise property taxes by up to $163 million.
“Not only are we going to have a full school year and a full school day, we’re going to make sure that it’s done, because now the state actually is living up to the responsibility,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
The mayor and CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said there is another reason for optimism entering the new school year. Claypool said the district’s 5-year graduation rate has increased from the mid 50s in 2011 to 77 percent in 2017, with some of the biggest gains among African-American males.
Adam Goldstein’s daughters are fourth generation CPS students. He said he agrees the state school funding plan helps alleviate concerns from years past, but he still has others.
“CPS still continues to borrow money at alarming rates, and I don’t think it’s sustainable in the long run,” he said.
The Chicago Teachers Union said all the back-slapping from politicians who worked on the new education funding deal is premature. The union said, although the new school funding formula generates $350 million in new revenue for schools across the state, Illinois really needs about $5 billion.
CTU planned to hold a rally Tuesday morning to protest CPS funding which the union believes is still inadequate.