CPS’s 2013 Budget: a Blueprint for the Future
CHICAGO, July 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is a statement by Andrew Broy, president of Illinois Network of Charter Schools:
The era of the strategic investment has begun within the Chicago Public Schools. With the release of the city’s education budget and the news that CPS is planning a property tax increase to fund operations in the current school year, Chicago’s perpetual debate over school funding has returned. But the debate has a very different tone this year.
The reality of shrinking revenues and expanding obligations has forced the district to think strategically about where it chooses to invest its money. This is a welcome departure from the past, where expenses ballooned while student achievement stagnated. Over the past decade, the CPS budget has increased at a fairly steady rate. In 2005, the district’s operating budget (excluding facilities) was $4.2 billion. By 2011, in an era of minimal inflation, the operating budget was $5.6 billion, an increase of 25%. During that same period, enrollment fell by more than 18,000 students.
Student Need Drives Funding Decisions
The FY 2013 budget has a very different theme and, to borrow a phrase, represents CPS’s “rendezvous with reality.” The district’s fixed obligations continue to rise in certain key areas, but the district is managing its discretionary funding with a view toward outcomes. The district is making investments in maintaining current class sizes, avoiding citywide layoffs, investing in early learning and pre-K programs, and expanding high-quality school choice programs, including charter schools.
In Chicago, where the charter school student population has a higher incidence of low-income students than the district average, charter schools represent 9 of the top 10 highest performing non-selective high schools on the ACT, graduation and college enrollment rates are significantly higher, and at the elementary level, a higher percent of charter school students meet and exceed ISAT standards than traditional public school students. The thousands of students on charter waitlists attest to the fact that this option is in high demand among CPS families, and we commend CPS for investing in charter schools that prove they can deliver results.
The budget is not without pain. But the cuts are mostly away from the classroom. More than 200 central office positions and citywide positions have been cut. A variety of other programs have been trimmed, including the culture of calm initiative and several internal offices. These are all wise decisions and allow the district to avoid school-based layoffs and their impact on students.
Somewhat more controversially, the proposed budget relies on $431.8 million in reserves to close a large budget deficit. While draining the entire reserve fund is not an ideal solution, the alternative was even deeper cuts in programs that have proven effective in educating students.
This is an important first step toward enhanced transparency and a needed step to align the district with fiscal reality. For too long the district deferred decisions that were necessary, relying on one-time fixes to solve pressing fiscal challenges–an unexpected infusion of federal Edujobs revenue and a pension holiday are only the most recent examples.
Smarter Incentives and Real Accountability
Most important, this is the first budget that truly attempts to align spending with programs proven to boost student achievement. The ultimate solution is to move toward a student-based funding model where student need drives funding allocations. Such weighted student funding models have been enacted elsewhere and ensure that funding arrives at the school as real dollars–not as teaching positions, ratios, or staffing norms–that can be spent flexibly. In this model, accountability is focused more on results and less on inputs, programs, or activities.
The budget also proposes moving away from step and lane increases in favor of a differentiated compensation system. Under the current CPS salary schedule, which compensates teachers based on seniority and degrees, the assumption is that more experience and higher-level degrees create better teachers. While experience improves teacher performance in some cases, this is not true across the board. And the importance of identifying high-performing teachers is supported by abundant research. Rick Hanushek, an economist at Stanford University, found that the effects of a high quality teacher on student learning gains are significant. In a 2010 study, he found that teachers the lowest performing teachers produced one-third the student learning gains as high performing teachers, whose students advanced the equivalent of 1.5 academic years per year.
The CPS 2013 budget represents a step in the right direction and begins to set the stage for the real work that lies ahead. While there is certainly pain in the budget, it is mostly away from school-level impacts and in support of programs that work.
Andrew Broy is the President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.
The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) seeks to improve education by establishing and supporting high-quality charter public schools that transform lives and communities. As the voice of Illinois charter public schools, INCS advocates for legislation on behalf of the charter sector, provides support to strengthen charter public schools, and influences education policy for the benefit of all public school students
Contacts: Sylvia Ewing
(312) 629-2063 x33
SOURCE Illinois Network of Charter Schools