Nearly 40 Chicago schools, including charters, to get building boost from state capital plan

Nearly $60 million could be funneled to nearly 40 Chicago schools for new buildings, playgrounds, gyms, windows, turf fields, fire safety equipment — even replacement desks — according to Chalkbeat analysis of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45 billion capital spending plan.

Half of that would go to a charter school, the Archer Heights-based Academy for Global Citizenship, which would receive $31 million for “capital improvements.” The school sits in the district of Antonio Munoz, the assistant majority leader of the state senate. It was already slated for a new building designed by reputed Chicago architect Jeanne Gang.

What’s more, another $200 million will pass through the state board of education to be divvied up for maintenance and repairs to schools across the state.

The capital bill, part of a state budget Pritzker signed into law earlier this week, lays out $415 million in all for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades to K-12 schools across Illinois, including charters and private schools. It sets aside $111 million more in construction grants to early childhood providers.

Illinois hasn’t had a capital bill since 2009, meaning many school districts have been left on their own to finance repairs and construction.

The plan also establishes a School Construction Task Force that will make recommendations for capital needs of public schools, early childhood education programs and vocational education programs.

“The governor believes that every child in this state should receive a quality education,” said a spokeswoman, Jordan Abudayyeh, in a statement. The $526 million in pre-K to 12 school maintenance and construction was part of a larger effort to make “significant investments” in education, including bringing the school funding formula to record levels, she said.

The plan comes at a time when Chicago is facing up to its own delays in assessing facilities. Despite a 2011 state law aimed at increasing transparency around the district’s investments in school buildings, Chicago hasn’t conducted a citywide facilities study since 2015, citing budget constraints. That is set to change: The school board in April greenlighted a $5 million contract to a Maryland-based company called Clampett Industries to perform a detailed assessment of every school in the district within two years.

“We are grateful for the state’s significant commitment to our capital improvement efforts,” said Michael Passman, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools. “We will work with our state counterparts to help move these initiatives forward, and we thank them for their support.”

Parents and other residents routinely appear at monthly Chicago school board meetings to complain about leaking roofs, mold, and sorely needed repairs at the city’s aging school buildings. In an April survey conducted by Chalkbeat, a lag in critical repairs ranked high among concerns by both parents and local educators.

According to the plan, the Chicago school that would see the most is the Academy for Global Citizenship.

Among district-run schools, John Hancock High School, which sits on the city’s Southwest Side in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s home turf, would receive $9 million for “costs associated with capital upgrades.” Last year, Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Hancock would get a new building as part of a nearly $1 billion historic capital investment plan paid for by city bonds.

Other Chicago school projects listed to receive $1 million or more from the state include Grover Cleveland Elementary in the Irving Park neighborhood, which would get more than $6 million for new windows and other improvements; McPherson Elementary in Ravenswood, which would receive $1.4 million for a turf athletic field and other projects; Morgan Park High School, which would receive $1 million for gymnasium improvements; and Burnham Elementary, which would receive $1 million for windows.

Another big beneficiary is the Noble Network of Charter Schools. Three of its campuses would receive grants totaling $2.75 million for fire safety improvements, air conditioning, and a gymnasium renovation and expansion.

Matthew McCabe, the chief of staff for Noble, said leaders there were “thrilled” with the news. “Since charter public schools haven’t traditionally received capital funding from the district, parents and community supporters have advocated for years for these funds,” he said in a statement.

While the bill specifies particular grants for schools, parks, and other civic projects, it also includes several broad lump-sum items. A long list of Chicago ward offices will get six-figure amounts that could, in turn, trickle down to schools.

The plan also specifies that Chicago Public Schools will get $500,000 for science equipment and $100,000 for signs and marquees at schools in Avondale.  

The exact timeline of the grant distribution was not clear and grants could be spread across several years.

Among the Chicago K-12 schools included in the plan:

John Hancock College Prep ($9 million)
Grover Cleveland Elementary ($6.2 million)
Talcott Elementary School ($350,000)
Marine Leadership Academy of Chicago ($75,000)
DuSable High School ($200,000)
Betty Shabazz International Charter School in Chicago ($250,000)
Noble Hansberry College Prep ($2 million)
Belding School ($110,000)
Chicago Academy ($500,000)
Carl Von Linne School ($100,000)
William P. Gray Elementary School ($100,000)
Disney II High School ($100,000)
Kelvyn Park High School ($300,000)
Reilly Elementary ($300,000)
Schurz High School ($375,000)
Aspira Business and Finance ($200,000)
Price Elementary School ($200,000)
Pershing Elementary Humanities Magnet School ($200,000)
Hyde Park Academy ($150,000)
Washington High School ($150,000)
Ray Elementary School ($100,000)
Adam Clayton Powell School ($100,000)
Arthur Dixon Elementary school ($25,000)
McPherson Elementary School ($1.4 million)
Mather High School ($300,000)
Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School ($400,000)
Noble Chicago Bulls College Prep ($625,000)
John B. Murphy Elementary School ($350,000)
Avondale Logandale Elementary School ($100,000)
Darwin Elementary school ($75,000)
Salmon P. Chase Elementary School ($200,000)
Agricultural High School of Science ($25,000)
Prussing Elementary ($250,000)
Nightingale Elementary School ($125,000)
Back of the Yards College Prep. ($225,000)
Morgan Park High School ($1,000,000)
Burnham Elementary (1,000,000)
Academy Global Citizenship ($31,000,000)
Noble Johnson College Prep ($150,000)