CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools outlined plans to increase its budget by $125 million for the 2020-21 academic year. Although a final budget won’t be announced until later this summer.
Speaking on a conference call, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the money will go towards everything from special education resources to equity grants to specific schools.
“These budgets include more than $125 million to promote greater equity in our schools. This budget also addresses key priorities such as special education, college and career readiness and supports and services for our district’s schools in our highest need areas.
Of that amount, Jackson said, the lion’s share will go towards special education services. That’s $97 million. She added it’s the largest amount committed to special education in the history of the Chicago Public School system.
Jackson said 255 schools will receive $44 million in equity grants.
“We will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 has on our school system and if there are any impacts to our operational spending for the district, we will release that information with our full operating budget this summer.”
Along with special education and the equity grants, CPS has the rest of the amount divided up with the following:
- $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.
Victor Iturralde is the principal of Solorio Academy in Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood.
“Gage Park is a community that has experienced economic distressed and tremendous economic challenges. I was very excited to learn that my high school will receive a new equity grant in the amount of $100,000. Because our students and our community to even the playing field,” Iturralde said. “It’s an investments in our students, in our school and our community.”
But not everyone is happy with what is planned and that more of a focus should be looked through the lens of COVID-19. Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said more should be done to allocate more funding sources.
“Given the fact that this CPS budget is coming out under the looming cloud of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever that CPS lend its advocacy to the fair tax initiative, immediately deploy TIF reform that funds devices and hots pots for every student, and push for large scale federal fiscal support,” said Sharkey, who added not enough details were provided for the budget.
“CPS says it’s also increasing desperately needed funds for our special education students, which begs the question of why management is not front-loading supports for these students today, as so many struggle under shelter-at-home without services? We need clarity on where those funds will be directed.”
Sharkey also commented on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her role in getting more nurses and other staff in schools for the next school year.
“The mayor must expedite the hiring of nurses and social workers, also for this fall, not years from now. By September, she must ensure that CPS is providing support for long-underfunded South and West side school communities, smaller class sizes, English language learners, homeless students, and our immigrant students and families, regardless of documentation.”