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North Side schools fare best in ‘additional’ budget funds from CPS

GRAPHIC: Where money went

GRAPHIC: Where the money went

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Updated: August 31, 2013 6:19AM

After a wave of local school councils publicly rejected or rescinded their school budgets as “inadequate,” Chicago Public Schools handed out some extra money in chunks of $35,000, $70,000 or $100,000 to 135 elementary schools to help ease the blow.

Most of the schools receiving a share of the $8.8 million as well as most of the money went to North Side schools, though the ZIP code that is home to the schools that took in the most is in North Lawndale on the West Side, according to a Sun-Times analysis of the list.

Of the $8.8 million handed out, 62 North Side schools are receiving $4.47 million, or an average of $72,000 per school. Another 55 South Side schools are sharing $3.265 million, or about $59,300 per school. And 18 West Side schools are getting $1.065 million, or about $59,100 a school.

The ZIP code getting the most money is 60623 — receiving $515,000 — on the West Side, in North Lawndale. Next comes 60625 in the North Side’s Ravenswood neighborhood with $510,000 and 60657 in Lake View on the North Side with $470,000, followed by 60638 in the Southwest Side’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood with $440,000.

Forty-six schools got $100,000 each, according to CPS, 31 received $70,000, and another 58 elementary schools each got $35,000.

Of the nine elementary schools that rejected, rescinded or approved their proposed budgets only with conditions, five got $100,000. A sixth, Murphy Elementary School, whose LSC attached conditions to its approval, received $35,000.

“All these schools should be able to thrive under the money, not because of where they’re located,” said Victoria Benson, LSC chair of Portage Park Elementary School, which received $35,000.

Down about $700,000 over last year and on the hook now for purchasing more equipment and things that Central Office once provided, Portage Park officials told CPS they’ll spend the money on supplies, Benson said, since the school of about 1,100 kids also had about $60,000 of its cell tower lease money taken away and redistributed district-wide.

“Unfortunately, we’re so dwindled with the kids, what do you do?” she said. “I thought. ‘I’ll accept it but I’m not going away.’ The kids need it. We want the kids to come and have a good first day.”

CPS said it created two “clear and consistent” criteria to help elementary schools “located in every corner of the city” that saw particularly large cuts, and figured $100,000 roughly equaled a whole teaching position, $70,000 was about two-thirds of a position, and $35,000 helped pay for about a third. One criterion for giving the money was to help schools that saw a “decrease in student-based budgeting funding of more than 4 percent on top of the change in projected enrollment” plus a “significant cut in supplemental bilingual or magnet cluster positions.”

The other was for schools that saw a “decrease in student-based budgeting funding of more than 2 percent on top of change in projected enrollment, and fell below a certain threshold in the per-pupil amount of local funds allocated to the school.” Those local funds include board-funded programs, state poverty money or the actual student-based allocation.

If the per-pupil amount was less than $4,800, the school got $70,000 if its year-over-year reduction was between 2 percent and 4 percent, and $100,000 if year-over-year exceeded 4 percent. And if the per-pupil amount was between $4,800 and $5,000, a school got $35,000 if its year-over-year reduction was between 2 percent and 4 percent, and $70,000 if its year-over-year reduction was greater than 4 percent, according to the district.

“Funds went to the schools that were already receiving the least amount of local funds on a per-pupil basis,” CPS spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said. “This funding formula was blind to schools or neighborhoods and is based on a very principled set of criteria. To say that some schools were given additional money for any other reason is illogical.

“The fact that North Lawndale was the biggest beneficiary of the funds makes it clear that this was not targeted to any one area but instead went to schools with the greatest need,” she said.

And for its high schools, the district gave out a flat $40 extra per student enrolled.

So hard-hit Kelly High School, down some $4 million from last year and so far losing 23 teachers after CPS projected an enrollment drop, didn’t qualify for any lump sum.

“For us, that’s a whole nother position, another teacher in the building, another adult for our students to have access to,” said Carolyn Brown, a teacher LSC rep at Kelly. “It may not seem like a lot, but from our perspective, everything that was taken from us was a huge blow to our students.”

The orchestra teacher who was laid off takes with him the entire orchestra program, she said.

“One person, one human being translates into more than just a job at Kelly,” she said.

Kate Schott Bolduc, who heads the Common Sense coalition of LSCs said she couldn’t tell whether the list of 135 was fair because a clear picture has yet to emerge of school budgets.

“If the North Side schools received more money just because they’re on the North Side, that would be a problem, but I can’t say that happened,” said Bolduc, also an LSC member of Blaine Elementary, which was awarded $100,000, but then rejected it saying it wasn’t enough. “Our mission is for all CPS schools from the South, West and North Sides are fairly funded. There are some schools in our coalition that could have used a grant, even a $35,000 grant.”

Like Kellogg Elementary School on the Far South Side, which is still short half a teacher position to be able to open on Aug. 26, she said.

Ericson Elementary School, one of a handful spared from closing, didn’t make the cut, either.

“That’s ridiculous,” LSC member Roy Baldon said first of his West Side school’s absence from the list, then repeated himself when he learned of the North Side’s apparent advantage. “That’s crazy.”

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