suntimes
DISRUPTIVE 
Weather Updates

Schools to get millions in flexible funds to cope with longer day

Updated: April 25, 2012 9:34PM



Despite a massive deficit, Chicago public schools next year will receive $130 million more in flexible instructional dollars to help fill a longer school day and meet higher academic standards, officials said at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

The system is cutting $100 million in operations and administration and shifting $50 million from central office programming to individual schools to piece together the extra moneyfor schools, officials said.

Principals will not only get more flexibility, but also more instructional dollars overall, said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.

She would not say how much more each school would get in “discretionary’’ funds that can be used as needed for instructional purposes, as the amounts were still being finalized. However, numbers released Wednesday indicated the system’s 580 non-charter schools would reap an average $224,000 in new “discretionary’’ money — enough to buy, for example, two teaching positions.

The district still faces a $600 to $700 million deficit this coming school year, making some skeptical of whether schools would really end up with more bottomline dollars by the time final budget numbers are released in June. CPS officials said they could not yet say whether schools’ overall budgets — for instruction, operations and facilities — would be larger next school year.

“Based on what they have said publicly so far, this is some kind of voodoo math. It just doesn’t pass the smell test,’’ said Jonathan Goldman, a local school council member at Drummond Elementary.

“The only way you can cut $600 million out of the budget is to cut it out of the classroom. It’s very worrisome and it feels like they are not being honest with schools and parents about the reality of their situation,’’ Goldman said.

The money comes as the high school day across the city will increase to 7.5 hours four days a week, while elementary schools will go to 7 hours. To supervise a new, mandatory recess and add art, music and physical education classes that many parents want typically takes more money, Goldman noted.

High school principals will receive their instructional budgets Thursday and Friday. Elementary school principals will receive those details next week.

Officials emphasized that the new budgets will reflect no increase in class size or changes to full-day kindergarten, early childhood education, magnets, athletics or safety programs such as Safe Passage.

Also Wednesday, school board members voted to phase out the Henry Ford Academy Power House Charter High School, a bottom-rung “level 3” school where only 9 percent of juniors passed their state tests last school year. The building at 931 S. Homan will gradually be taken over by Nobel Street Charter Schools, the system’s most successful high school franchise operator.

Plus, two new schools for at-risk students, including dropouts, were approved. Camelot Schools, a national charter franchise, will operate Chicago Excel Academy Charter School at a yet-to-be determined location. The Institute for Latino Progress will operate the Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy Charter High School at 2570 S. Blue Island, opening in the fall of 2013.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.