Chicago Public Schools unveils $7.9 billion budget

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools presented a $7.9 billion budget to the Board of Education Wednesday, including increases of $111 million from the State of Illinois for the 2018-2019 school year.

Many speakers taking the floor during the Board of Education meeting said the budget disproportionately favors North Side schools while South and West Side schools are being shortchanged.

A teacher for 15 years, Aletha Edwards currently teaches second grade at the Walt Disney Magnet School on the North Side. She says she has everything she needs, while her colleagues on the South Side talk about rodents in their classrooms and not having the right books, and students talk about schools in disrepair.

"I’m concerned about the day I have to send my child to a school. It doesn’t matter where I live, where I’m sending my child to go to school, if it’s equitable," Edwards said.

Usual critics of CPS say this budget is better than past ones, but concerns remain over sustainability and transparency.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the $1 billion in capital spending is unprecedented, but budget watchdogs are critical of the plan to borrow $750 million to pay for them. There's also concern that the budget doesn't include a staffing plan for special education.

"We believe these capital investments promote equity throughout the district, [and] also continue to ensure that kids get a high education in schools," Jackson said.

Many like Steinmetz High School senior Sabrina Marrerlo blamed Mayor Emanuel.

"While comparing data from 36th Ward and 47th ward where the mayor is from, there is a big difference," Marrerlo said. "The 47th ward has a total of 60 percent of total needs met, compared to the 36th ward with only four percent of total needs met."

Critics say they like this budget better than past years, but it still doesn’t address inequities drawn by racial lines. CPS is still taking on issues with the student code of conduct relative to bullying, and racial disparities in suspension practices.