Chicago Public Schools fights for funding as district faces end of COVID-19 pandemic money

Monday, May 13, 2024
CPS fights for funding as district faces end of COVID-19 money
Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez is seeking more funding from the Illinois state budget as the district faces the end of its COVID-19 money.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Celebrating the work of crossing guards was on the Monday agenda for Chicago Publics Schools CEO Pedro Martinez.

It was a much easier task than a planned trip to Springfield on Wednesday to ask state lawmakers for more money as they finalize the state budget.

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"We know that if we have the investments, we know we could produce the results, and we still have a lot of need. And so that's really what it is to have that conversation," Martinez said.

In a somewhat unprecedented move, CPS officials will be joining the Chicago Teachers Union in Springfield. Like school districts around country, CPS will be losing federal COVID-19 funds. More money for CPS was one of Mayor Brandon Johnson's asks on his trip to the state capital last week

"The state overhauled the way it funds public schools across the state. It gave every district an adequacy target. In order to get to adequacy, Chicago Public Schools needs $1 billion," said Becky Vevea with ChalkBeat Chicago.

But when the bill passed a few years ago, lawmakers gave each Illinois school district a 10-year period to become fully funded.

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"We're getting a little bit closer to that. But, you know, I don't see the state speeding up that timeline any much," Vevea said.

If the timeline is not moved up, CPS schools may face significant cuts once the COVID funds completely dry up, which is expected during the 2025-26 school year. The district will have a new teachers' contract to pay and a new CPS funding formula calls for a classroom teacher for every 26 students.

Martinez said while there are some federal funds left for next year, there's very little wiggle room in school budgets.

"None of our schools lost in programming and really hundreds of schools now have foundational resources they didn't have before. But budgets are tight," Martinez said.

As for next year's budget, Martinez said the district conditions to look for reductions outside the classroom before a school board vote, which is expected in June or July.