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Chicago: $100M more for SPED while enrollment declining

Apr 18, 2023, Chalkbeat: Chicago schools officials promise more money for students with disabilities, English learners in preliminary budgets

Chicago Public Schools officials said Tuesday they plan to increase the amount of money going directly to school campuses by about $150 million next school year, even as the district has contended with declining enrollment and a murkier financial outlook.

School budgets the district is unveiling to principals this week will grow by almost $1,000 per student — to about $12,740 on average districtwide. But enrollment losses and program changes will mean flat or smaller overall budgets on 18% of the district’s campuses, officials said in a briefing with reporters. On a per student basis, 9% of the city’s 500-plus district-run schools will see stagnant or reduced funding. …

District officials said the bulk of the additional dollars — about $100 million — in next year’s school budgets will go toward hiring more special education teachers and paraprofessionals. The rest will fund added teaching positions, new support for English language learners amid an influx of newly arrived migrant students, and an increase in the district’s “equity grants” for underenrolled campuses. The district said contractual pay increases for staff are built into per-pupil funding schools receive.\

In the briefing, Martinez stressed that next school year’s budgets represent a continued shift away from a funding approach that largely relied on school enrollment, but said enrollment should remain a factor. …

The district is now serving more than 80,000 fewer students compared with a decade ago. After the loss of another 8,000 last year, Chicago Public Schools relinquished its spot as the country’s third-largest. Enrollment projections for next school year are not available yet, the district said….

Despite serving fewer students, her campus got money for two additional teachers and an academic coach, who works with educators on improving their instruction. That allowed the school to avoid combining students from two grades in a single classroom. Smaller class sizes, including a ratio of 16 kindergarteners to a teacher, allowed for “really intensive and focused instruction,” Giwa said.

“I can’t tell you what a huge difference this makes for students,” she said, “especially in the early grades.”

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