Chicago Public Schools proposes flat budget for next year

A man in a gray suit jacket stands at a podium
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, foreground, reacts while speaking during a press conference at Orr Academy High School in June. The district unveiled Tuesday its proposed 2023-24 budget, the first under Johnson. (Christian K. Lee / For Chalkbeat)

After years of steady increases, Chicago Public Schools unveiled a proposed $9.4 billion overall district budget Tuesday that would hold the line on spending in 2023-24. 

Roughly half — or $4.8 billion — would go directly to schools. District officials said it’s an additional $240 million compared with last year and about $90 million more than they reported earlier this spring, when they unveiled some preliminary school-level numbers ahead of an appeals process for principals. Roughly half of the increase — $128 million — would pay for additional teachers and support staff dedicated to students with disabilities. 

Despite the touted increases, about 10% of district schools — or about 50 campuses — would see their overall budgets shrink, cuts district officials said were driven by significant enrollment losses on those campuses. 

The proposed budget, up $22 million, or a fraction of a percent compared with last year’s, is the first under Mayor Brandon Johnson, who came into office this spring vowing to boost funding going to neighborhood schools.

The overall district budget would remain in line with last year’s budget despite the school-level funding hike in part because it includes a scaled-back capital spending plan. Officials are budgeting $155 million for what they described as pressing facility projects, compared with $765 million last year. But officials said they plan to request additional capital funding later this year after reviewing building needs and crafting a master facilities plan. 

The remainder of the district budget would cover districtwide programs and central office staff, employee pensions, and expenses tied to its substantial debt.

The budget plan for next school year comes as Chicago continues to grapple with enrollment losses and a more uncertain longer-term financial picture. The district is required to spend down its federal COVID relief allocation by the end of 2024. 

“This proposed budget is a step toward fulfilling CPS’ commitment to providing resources for every school community so that our students are healthy, safe, engaged, and on the path to long-term success,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday. 

The school board is slated to vote on the proposed budget less than two weeks from now, at its June 28 meeting.

A Chalkbeat analysis of school-level budget data the district released Tuesday shows that on a per pupil basis, 39 schools, or about 8% of campuses, saw budget cuts. Of those schools, 24 were predominantly Black, eight were majority Latino, and three were predominantly white. But schools serving predominantly Black students also saw the most substantial per pupil increases overall. 

Roughly 80,000 fewer students are enrolled in Chicago schools than there were a decade ago. The district has not released enrollment projections for next year.

On Tuesday, district officials once again hailed a continued shift away from budgeting predominantly based on student enrollment, with student demographics, programming needs, and other factors playing a larger role. 

Other proposed increases, according to a district press release, include: 

  • $32 million more for additional teaching positions
  • $15 million more for bilingual education, including some dollars for schools seeing an uptick in enrollments from newly-arrived migrant students
  • $5 million more for the district’s “equity grants,” which buttress schools grappling with severe under-enrollment

The district will host two budget hearings to solicit feedback on the proposed budget — at 6 p.m. June 20 and at 4:30 p.m. June 21 — at its headquarters, at 42 W Madison St. downtown. Public speakers must register in advance via the school board website or by calling 773-553-1600 before 5 p.m. June 15. The hearings will also be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube page and the school board web page.

The district will also host virtual hearings on its capital plan at noon June 20, 6 p.m. June 21, and noon June 23.

Mila Koumpilova is Chalkbeat Chicago’s senior reporter covering Chicago Public Schools. Contact Mila at mkoumpilova@chalkbeat.org.

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