New corporate model

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Clark Street for hire

Intertwined with the district’s per-pupil funding push is a parallel effort to price out services offered by central office departments. The idea is to give schools the option to redirect their cash elsewhere if the district does not offer what they need. Edmonton, Alberta, successfully pioneered the model, turning schools into consumers of its district-level services.

The move has put Clark Street departments on notice: Offer superior services or lose out. Right now, only two services are priced and sold this way, and they’re not available to all schools. Eventually, the district wants to hammer out pricing for most of its central services to serve schools that are being converted to per-pupil or lump-sum funding.

Middle managers focus on classroom

When the district created an extra layer of oversight, the new instructional watchdogs—called AIOs—were distracted from their primary mission and spent 40 percent of their time stamping out facilities and budgeting fires in schools. To get AIOs back on track, CPS set up three business service centers to relieve them of non-instructional work.

The centers provide basic services for free, but schools must tap discretionary funds to buy a part-time internal accounts supervisor and additional staff training for $8,000.

BUSINESS SERVICE CENTERS
North Side

1900 N. Austin Blvd.

Schools: 200

Budget: $1.6 million

Full-time employees: 21

Central
1900 N. Austin Blvd.

Schools: 208

Budget: $2.2 million

Full-time employees: 28

South Side
6533 S. Stewart Ave.

Schools: 237

Budget: $1.6 million

Full-time employees: 21

Source: Chicago Public Schools website

Having dollars follow kids

Charter schools and five new schools created under the Renaissance 2010 initiative are funded on the basis of the students they serve. The approach is called per-pupil, zero-based or lump-sum budgeting. Each school gets a set amount per student plus supplemental dollars based on each student’s special needs.

Traditional budgeting distributes funds based on staffing formulas that can lock schools into spending decisions. CPS has yet to finalize the per-pupil formula for the coming fiscal year, but hopes to extend this flexible funding to some AMPS schools by this fall.

FUNDING PER PUPIL
FY06

FY07

Base funding

$5,075 elementary

$6,075 high school

$5,200 elementary

$6,250 high school

Poverty (state)
$716

$716

Bilingual
$589

$589

Small schools
$300

$300

Note: Charters are also charged for facilities and some administrative costs. Special ed programs, also available to charters, are based on traditional staffing formulas.

Source: Chicago Public Schools

Snags in student-based budgeting

Last year, Pershing West, UPLIFT and Tarkington were the first non-charters to try per-pupil budgeting. The district added two more this year: Austin Business and Entrepreneurship High School and Sherman Elementary.

Enrollment projections are used to generate budgets for each school, with adjustments made in September based on real enrollment. Schools get extra cash when September enrollment exceeds projections, they’re held harmless when enrollment dips below projections.

Principal Lionel Allen says Sherman’s enrollment continued to climb after September—students who would have brought the school more than $150,000 if enrolled sooner. Still, Allen appreciates the extra spending control offered through per-pupil budgeting.

FY07 PER-PUPIL BUDGET

SCHOOL
ENROLLMENT

POVERTY

BILINGUAL

BUDGET*

Austin Business
217

90%

NA

$1.6 million

Pershing West
253

73%

NA

$1.5 million

Sherman
617

97%

NA

$3.6 million

Tarkington
1,095

92%

23%

$6.6 million

Uplift
433

97%

5%

$2.9 million

* Estimates based on enrollment figures from the 2007 Racial/Ethnic Survey, low-income figures from December 2006 and bilingual figures from spring 2006. A hybrid “base” rate was used for UPLIFT, which enrolls both elementary and high school students.