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CPS: No budget cuts for schools with lower enrollment

Updated: October 25, 2013 6:32AM

Chicago Public Schools that don’t meet their enrollment projections will not see their budgets cut after all, CPS announced Monday.

Under the system’s new student-based budget model, schools that fell short of their estimated enrollment on Monday, the 20th day of school, were due to lose up to $5,029 dollars for every projected pupil who didn’t show up.

Now they won’t, and for schools with worse-than-expected enrollment, it means some will keep $100,000 or more that they otherwise would have lost.

But another part of the budget plan won’t change: Schools that go over their estimated enrollments still will get extra cash for every extra student who shows up. Though the change in policy will end up costing a lot more money, CPS did not say where the extra money was coming from.

The sudden reversal, coming from a system that has been saying it’s broke, “Really kind of diminishes their credibility and nobody really knows what kind of money they have sitting there,” said Wendy Katten, director of parents group Raise Your Hand.

Still, Katten welcomes the restored funding. “I think it means they realized they can’t weaken schools any more than they already have.”

If all schools had met their enrollment goals, Raise Your Hand estimates that schools would still be short at least $168 million compared with last year. Those cuts stem from low per-pupil funding numbers set by the student-based budget formula.

In a statement, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that while she believes the new per-student funding formula is “the most fair and equitable way” to fund schools, “I believe schools should have a year to transition to this new system.”

But she warned that schools should not expect the same break next year.

“I think that is a good first step,” said Kate Bolduc, co-founder of the Common Sense Coalition of Local School Councils. “But it shouldn’t distract us from the reality that public schools opened four weeks ago underfunded with larger class sizes and without essential fine arts programming.”

Bolduc called on the Mayor Rahm Emanuel to identify and use tax-increment financing fund surpluses to direct more money to classrooms.

Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said the move could save 200 teacher jobs, but that earlier layoffs of 2,100 teachers and support staff have left schools “woefully understaffed in a lot of key areas.”

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