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CPS restructures funding to give principals more say on spending

Chicago Public Schools CEO BarbarByrd-Bennett  |  Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: April 13, 2013 6:18AM



Chicago Public Schools will move to a per-pupil funding model next year intended to give principals more flexibility in determining how they spend their school’s dollars — while bringing all schools, including charters, onto the same funding formula.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said Monday the current system, where schools’ budgets are based on per-position funding — Central Office’s determination of the number and type of staff they need — rather than on the number of students and those students’ needs, is outdated.

“We still face a billion-dollar deficit. As we continue to make cuts at Central office, we want to be sure we continue to give the principals the kind of autonomy that they need to redirect their dollars to really impact our students,” Byrd-Bennett said.

Under the new formula, all schools will receive the same funding for core staff, educational support personnel, supplies and additional instructional programs — about half their budgets — based on a per pupil standard, eliminating inconsistencies.

The remainder of a school’s budget, however — the non-core instruction funding — will remain based on such factors as Title I, special education, and magnet and bilingual programs, which can mean greater or less funding for a school to meet those district needs.

The Chicago Teachers Union on Monday pooh-poohed the CPS-stated benefits of the new formula, charging instead that it has “dangerous implications.”

“Per-pupil funding will promote discrimination against veteran teachers...principals with tight budgets choosing to replace highly skilled yet expensive veterans with cheaper novices,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey asserted. “It also raises oversight concerns. Principals will have an opportunity to spend money on unproven programs and questionable pet projects. This is yet another CPS initiative appearing to lack research and adequate preparatory work. We don’t know, for example, how many schools are going to see their budgets cut as a result of this change.”

A pilot program begun in 2006 proved the per-pupil formula of greater benefit to principals, and if CPS is to hold school leaders to greater accountability, principals must be able to tailor staff and programming to their actual students, Byrd-Bennett said.

It is unclear when principals will get the new formula-based budgets — to be able to prepare for next year, but they will begin training this week on its implementation, Byrd-Bennett said. One principal said they expect to receive their budgets next week.



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