Chicago Public Schools Face Budget Cuts for 2014-2015

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are losing 5% of their budget for the upcoming school yea in spite of having the promise of benefits, such as new science labs, extra cash, and iPads, linked to some schools welcoming students from other CPS schools which had been permanently shut down.

Now those same schools, says Lauren Fitzpatrick of Chicago Sun-Times, are losing $13.3 million from their 2015 budget.

If the Board of Education approves its CEO's budget recommendations, the average neighborhood school in Chicago will lose approximately 2.3% of its budget as compared to the 2013-2014 school year. This is a serious loss, but not as severe as the 39 "welcoming schools"  budget cuts.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the board's CEO, began last year to tie funding directly to student enrollment. She stated that she would not penalize schools if students who were projected to attend schools did not show up, which would "cushion the blow" for one more year.

Jose De Diego Elementary Community Academy had 200 students from "shuttered schools" who did not show. Now, that school will have to deal with less faculty members and loss of the $200,000 sent to all "welcoming schools". Alyx Pattison, a community representative on De Diego's Local School Council, is concerned about the students' transitions and their ability to adapt to the "welcoming school's" culture.

"Creating a culture is critical, and money helps with being able to manage," she said. "A teacher can spot an issue in a class of 19 he or she might not otherwise spot in a class of 27 or 28 kids. Until the cultures are really blended, a gradual step-down would really be in order." 

According to Alexander Russo, reporter for Chicago Now, the city's high schools are taking a tremendous hit because of the new budget, as well. Neighborhood high schools have had a decline in enrollment in the past decade because of the opening of more privately run charter high schools. This scatters students all over the city.

Since school budgets are so influenced by enrollment numbers, some principals do not have enough money to hire teachers for core subject areas. Neighborhood high schools have also been major targets for the removal of 10 or more teaching positions.

Ironically, the overall budget for CPS next year, reports Becky Vevea of WBEZ Public Radio, is $5.7 billion, up $500 million from last year. Byrd-Bennett says the increase is tied in to ballooning pension payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

WBEZ ‘s Bryce Covert reports that all students in the CPS system will receive free school meals, regardless of their income. There are benefits included in accepting this federal program's offerings. The system will not have to subsidize meal programs with its general fund money, and the federal reimbursement will be larger than the the general fund program.

"This transition will also allow us to improve quality of food and infrastructure in our lunchrooms, allowing us to redirect the dollars we no longer have to subsidize back to the classroom," the district said in an email to WBEZ.

Other school districts are deciding to participate also, based on the financial savings and the decreased administrative provisions. The prediction is that many eligible students who have not been able to handle the previously necessary paperwork, will now easily participate. This formula will also allow students who were just above the eligibility line to have school meals and will reduce the stigma of being singled out as a "free meal" kid.

Hunger does have an impact on a child's ability to learn. Cognitive and social development can be affected by the lack of access to food. There is even a correlation between hunger and mental illness.

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