School & District Management

In Chicago, Enrollment Decline and Funding Uncertainties Lead to Smaller School Budgets

By Denisa R. Superville — July 21, 2017 2 min read
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With about 8,000 fewer students expected to attend the Chicago district next school year, schools will receive approximately $43 million less than they last year, according to the district.

That projected drop in enrollment, along with a decline in federal funds for poverty programs, means that district-run schools will get about $2.28 billion in FY 18—or about $43 million less than this year, according to the district. The district expects federal funding for poverty programs to decrease by about $40 million, which will affect both district and charter schools.

The enrollment decline stems from a number of factors, including ongoing state population loss—in 2016, the state lost about 37,000 residents—lower birthrate, and a decline in immigration, according to the district.

City education leaders said that schools will receive a nearly 5 percent increase per student, with the per-student spending increasing to $4,290 from $4,087, the rate at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. The increase will largely go toward personnel, according to the district.

The district is also retooling how it allows principals to spend money meant for special education students. It is also adding 34 new teaching positions and 68 paraprofessionals across the city for “cluster classrooms” to serve students with the most severe disabilities.

The school budget highlights were released as Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner remain at odds over a revision to the state’s school funding formula. Rauner has threatened to veto a portion of a school funding bill, which the Democratically-controlled House and Senate passed in May but have not sent to the governor’s desk.

The bill would send about $215 million to Chicago for its teachers’ pension and preserve a $250 million block grant the district currently receives, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Rauner has said the rewrite is a “bailout” for Chicago at the expense of rural and suburban districts that could benefit from that money.

The state funding formula was the subject of a lawsuit the district filed in February, alleging that the way Illinois funds its schools violated the state’s civil rights act and discriminated against the district’s primarily low-income Hispanic and African American students. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in April.

Chicago school district officials dispute that the new school funding bill is a bailout for the city’s schools and argue that it would more equitably distribute state education funds. The district has said that a veto by Rauner would exceed his powers under the constitution.

“Governor Rauner is holding children across the state hostage as bargaining chips for his political agenda, but we won’t let Chicago children be used as pawns in his game,” Forrest Claypool, the district CEO, said in a press release. “We will do what is necessary to keep our schools open and maintain the historic academic gains we have made these past few years, including continuing our efforts to reduce bureaucracy while investing money directly in classrooms.”

In recent years, the district has lurched from one budget crisis to another and has counted on state money that has not always materialized—or materialize in the amount that it expected.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the district told investors that it anticipates a $544 million deficit next year without additional state funding.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.