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Chicago: SPED funding up, tax increase, enrollment "plummeting"

June 13, 2023, Chicago Sun-Times: CPS boosts school budgets with focus on special education — and more property taxes Buoyed in part once again by federal COVID-19 relief funding, Chicago Public Schools will spend about $220 million more in the 2023-2024 school year to hire teachers and other support staff.

Chicago is boosting funding for the vast majority of its public schools next fall with a particular focus on special education — and with the help of its yearly property tax increase.

Overall, the school system’s spending will remain steady at $9.4 billion in the 2023-2024 school year, but more money will go directly to schools, figures released Tuesday show….

CPS is also issuing its highest allowed property tax increase of 5%, or about $131 million, to help support its budget. Property taxes are the school system’s largest revenue source with state funding still falling about $1.4 billion short. But CPS-issued increases — a routine yearly occurrence — have often gone under the radar compared to those at the city level.

Most of the new money is going toward special education services, where CPS plans to add $126 million, granting about 85% of schools more special education funding. Officials said any special ed cuts are due to shifting enrollment. Special ed services have been troubled at CPS for years — and the district’s top official in that area resigned this week amid the department’s latest reprimand.

About 90% of 499 schools districtwide are getting more total funding next school year than the one that just ended, ranging from an additional $1,075 to $3.9 million. The remaining 10% of schools are facing cuts from $544 to $400,745, largely because of significant enrollment losses….

Johnson also vowed on the campaign trail that he would avoid raising property taxes that he claimed were squeezing the middle class out of Chicago. But the district is allowed to raise taxes by the lesser of inflation or 5% — and is again doing just that. Inflation this year was calculated at 6.5%, so CPS will take in a 5% — or $131 million — increase. That falls in line with previous years. CPS has raised property taxes every year for the last decade….

Enrollment has remained a big challenge and makes running schools more costly. The school system has had to grapple with plummeting student populations over the last two decades, falling from over 400,000 students to 322,000 this year.

CPS for the last 10 years has funded its schools on a per pupil basis — more students equals more money, and fewer kids means budget cuts. But the district has begun moving away from that formula — called student-based budgeting — in recent years in an attempt to stop harming schools that lose kids for factors outside their control, like population declines in their neighborhoods….

Instead, CPS is adding money based on student needs and providing guaranteed funding for certain teaching and support positions. The district is also giving money to most schools that are losing students to soften that blow….


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