Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday unveiled a 2022-23 district budget totaling $9.5 billion, up about $200 million, or about 2%, from this school year.
Under its proposed plan, the district is preparing to spend more on about 1,600 additional teaching and other staff positions, expanded professional development and facilities projects — and servicing its debt. important. Next year’s budget is the first for CEO Pedro Martinez, the district’s former chief financial officer, who inherited this school year‘s spending plan when he took over as director last September.
He was notably absent from any reference to former CEO Janice Jackson’s Moving Forward Together pandemic recovery initiative, which was due to be in its second year in 2022-23 – although the district is sticking to some investments in this context, such as an internal tutoring program which started more slowly than expected this school year. The district, which owes some $8.6 billion, will spend $769 million on debt service, slightly more than last year.
Overall, $4.6 million will go directly to school budgets, representing approximately 48% of the overall budget, a slightly larger share from this school year. Amid declining student enrollment that has accelerated during the pandemic, this campus funding represents an 8% increase per student. The district will spend $765 million on facilities, an increase of about 14% from this year.
District officials said the focus will be on restoring academic and mental health that has remained elusive this year, as well as social and emotional learning and professional growth for educators. The district, which said it spent about 45% of the $2.8 billion in federal COVID emergency relief funds, is budgeting an additional $730 million of those dollars.
Some of the money will support pre-pandemic initiatives and programs, such as expanding pre-kindergarten, grants for schools facing steep declines in enrollment and rolling out the district’s universal Skyline program.
“We are investing these funds strategically, establishing a new foundation for success to ensure schools have the resources and capacity to move every student forward,” Martinez said in a statement.
The school board will vote on the budget at its June 22 meeting. District leaders set the stage for the budget unveiling at their May meeting, when they spoke at length about what they described as a murky long-term financial outlook for the country’s third-largest district, with a historic injection of federal COVID relief dollars only a temporary balm.
Martinez and some school board members have expressed frustration that the district lacks the ability to ask city taxpayers to raise their taxes to help contribute more to operating and facility expenses.
This year’s $9.3 billion budget is up about 10% from the previous year, thanks to about $1 billion in federal COVID relief. It featured more modest spending on facilities projects, a tab that had been declining in recent years before the proposed increase for the coming year.
The district first announced its campus budgets in April, drawing criticism because budgets would shrink on 40% of campuses amid major pandemic-era enrollment losses, even if the district allocated more dollars to schools as a whole.
Critics including the district’s main association, teachers’ union and parent advocacy groups have called for keeping school budgets harmless for the third straight year as schools across the city struggle to recover from the pandemic.
Through an annual process in which school leaders appeal the size of their budgets, the district has since restored approximately $24 million in funding, including $14 million for special education. The district also allocated professional development and other centrally budgeted dollars to campuses, increasing overall school budget amounts and reducing the amount of cuts to a total of $18.6 million, with about 23% of campuses that are now seeing lower budgets.
Principals, parents and others are urging the district to increase federal pandemic relief spending to meet the urgent educational and mental health needs of students. District leaders have pushed back in recent weeks, arguing that rolling out the additional money gradually over three years will lead to more sustainable spending.
Next year’s investments with this funding include $100 million for early childhood programs, $72 million for centrally funded teaching positions, $45 million for professional development and $30 million dollars for summer school programs.
The district said next year’s budget includes 43,376 full-time employee positions, an increase of 1,620, including 524 teachers, 112 nurses and 53 counselors, among others. The new educator positions include 100 additional art teachers, as the district said it places great emphasis on expanding arts education while reducing class sizes and boosting professional development. Funding for special education increased by $68 million.
The budget will also fund a new initiative to re-engage 1,000 young people who have been disconnected from school for a year or more during the pandemic.
Officials noted the district remains funded at just 68% of what the state estimates would be “adequate” funding — and vowed to continue pushing for more resources.
The district will hold public hearings on the budget ahead of the council vote, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on June 13 and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on June 15 at its headquarters at 42 W. Madison St. Hearings on The capital budgets will be held virtually at: noon June 15, 4 p.m. June 16, and 11:30 a.m. June 17.
Mila Koumpilova is Chalkbeat Chicago’s senior reporter covering Chicago’s public schools. Contact Mila at [email protected]