This Week in CPS: New Budget, School Discipline Policy Changes

2019 CPS Budget Gives $60 Million More to Schools

Kudos to Chalkbeat Chicago for an excellent summary of this year’s CPS budget, which is up for School Board approval on Wednesday. In case you missed it, here are the highlights: more money for schools, two new central office departments (Equity and Title IX), new school construction couples with investments in school choice.

Here’s a bit of broader context: Thanks to the new state funding formula and a property tax hike for teacher pensions, CPS has a little more budget breathing room this year–a total increase of just five percent. That means $60 million more to schools this year than last year, via a two percent increase in the base rate for student-based-budgeting, to $4,397 per student before adding funds for students in poverty or who have special needs. For comparison, in 2016 the national average for state per-pupil spending was $11,762, but that average obscures wide differences from state to state.

In 2017, the Daily Herald examined spending across 93 Illinois suburban districts and found a range between $8500 and a whopping $32,000 per-pupil. As state Sen. Dan McConchie (R-26, northwest suburbs), put it, “The problem is no one knows what it ought to cost to educate students.” However, the state’s new funding formula takes a stab at it by calculating an “adequacy target.” Though state funds alone won’t move any of the state’s poorly-resourced districts all the way to adequacy, they are helping Chicago inch closer in that direction.

Discipline Changes Coming

This morning, the district announced proposed changes to its disciplinary practices, to be reviewed by the Board of Education at its Wednesday meeting.

Limits on “Catch-All” Suspensions: The current Student Code of Conduct allows school staff to suspend students for behavior that does not fall in the most serious category of offenses (burglary, assault, sexual assault, etc.) but that “seriously disrupts” the education process. Currently, these suspensions make up one-quarter of all suspensions in the district. The proposed change would have network staff review and approve or deny suspensions when schools wish to suspend a student for an unspecified form of seriously disruptive behavior.

Since the 2012-2013 school year, CPS has seen a 76 percent reduction in out-of-school suspensions, and every demographic subgroup has seen reductions – including African American students whose out-of-school suspensions rates have decreased by 75 percent during the same time period. However, African American students still account for an outsized percentage of suspensions. Bringing in network staff to review suspensions could further reduce them and create more equity in discipline.

Other new provisions would clarify the role of the new Title IX office in discipline, strengthen anti-bullying and anti-discrimination language, add immigration status as a protected student group and update language regarding restorative justice and trauma-informed practices.

Board Agenda and How to Participate

If you’d like to see the full agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, it’s here. If you’d like to attend or speak, sign up here.

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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