Board to call shots on new federal money

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Chicago’s public schools are getting a 27 percent increase in federal Title I funds this year, school officials say, but schools will not see an increase in their discretionary money. Instead, the School Board has decided how to use the extra money on schools’ behalf.

Even in the view of one of the city’s staunchest decentralization advocates, that’s OK.

“I don’t think that’s inappropriate,” says Donald Moore, executive director of the research and advocacy group Designs for Change. “Here are some of the schools that have had a chance over the years and haven’t improved.”

Title I funding for CPS will rise to $216 million, according to Budget Director John Maiorca. Of that amount, $125 million will be distributed to 481 schools through a formula that reflects the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price student lunches and federal family assistance. The per-pupil amount ranges from $281 to $995, depending on the concentration of poverty.

No school will be docked Title I money because of student transfers to another school. “The schools were held harmless,” chief CPS attorney Marilyn Johnson said at a briefing for local school council members. “The principals asked, and we are going to do that.”

CPS is providing the 179 schools deemed to be failing under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) with additional services costing about $35 million. About $10 million will be devoted to professional development and $25 million to school-based reading specialists, additional classroom teachers, after-school tutoring, diagnostic testing and the like. CPS says it is going to allocate the extras based on need.

“We were afraid they were just going to plug holes in the budget with it,” says Denise Dixon, president of the advocacy group Illinois ACORN. “But since they are actually taking the money and putting it into programs that are going to get into the classroom, then that make sense to us.”

On average, the 179 schools will get more additional resources in a single year than schools on CPS probation got in their best funding year. Some will continue to receive such CPS-provided extras as external partners, probation managers and management interns, according to Chief Accountability Officer Phil Hansen.

By increasing after-school tutoring, CPS is guarding against the possible diversion of Title I money next year as another NCLB provision kicks in. Under the law, students at schools that have failed to meet their annual progress goals three years in a row may use their share of Title I money to purchase tutoring from outside vendors, including community organizations and for-profit companies.

This year, CPS plans to provide additional support to at least some of the schools that receive students from the failing schools. Some of the receiving schools have only recently met their improvement goals.

As Catalyst goes to press, the amount of Title I money CPS will use to transport students under NCLB choice is not available. In July, school officials said they would use up to $5 million.

Other uses of Title I include child-parent centers, summer school, professional development for teachers and administration of the federal programs.

When all federal funds are counted, federal funding makes up 20 percent of the $4.3 billion CPS budget this year, officials say.