Chicago school officials release details on budget cuts, and some cuts will affect students

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Following several weeks of repeated requests from Catalyst and other media, CPS officials on Monday released a breakdown of programs and positions that got axed in July. Several high school initiatives, reading coaches and some academic after-school programs got hit.

The new administration contends most of these programs simply weren’t working.

Following several weeks of repeated requests from Catalyst and other media, CPS officials on Monday released a breakdown of programs and positions that got axed in July. Several high school initiatives, reading coaches and some academic after-school programs got hit.

The new administration contends most of these programs simply weren’t working.

Following are the major cuts that will directly affect student learning:

High Schools

Step Up/Freshman Connection: $2 million cut. This summer program was touted by former CEO Arne Duncan as a way to ease the transition into high school. The program is available to all new freshmen, but doesn’t seem to be catching on: 9,900 students attended this summer, compared to more than 10,000 last year. 

College Bridge: This program, which allowed high school seniors to take college courses, will be eliminated, saving $1.2 million. 

High schools: $3.1 million will be cut from spending on curriculum packages for High School Transformation. Another $5 million will be saved by revamping the high school evening and summer school.

Elementary Schools

Two programs were complete goners–the $2 million Enrichment Academies and the $4 million After School Counts program. An additional summer program for students transitioning to 3rd grade, called Step Up To Third Grade, is being cut $1.7 million.

 All three programs were run out of the Office of Extended Learning, which oversees after-school and some summer programs. Now, the only academic program that will remain with Extended Learning is the tutoring required under No Child Left Behind for students in schools that have failed to make academic progress.

The proposed budget book says the Enrichment Academies and After School Counts programs were targeted for elimination in order “to focus resources on proven effective programs.” Internal evaluations from CPS showed the programs fostered only minor, if any, improvements in students’ test scores.

In fact, reading scores for those After School Counts students who were already at grade level actually declined, according to the evaluation. Enrichment Academies also struggled to help these middle-tier students—a significant problem considering that’s who the program targeted.

A $2.5 million cut in literacy coaches will not have as much of an impact, says Budget Director Christina Herzog. She says there still will be 101 coaches to help schools in the first three years of using the district’s reading program, which seeks to align reading curriculum from pre-kindergarten through 5th grade. After that, schools will get help after school hours but not hands on during the day.

The district’s cuts also include a number of non-educational personnel, including the axing of more than 200 food service employees. According to district officials, the newly created Office of Performance Management analyzed meal preparations throughout the city’s schools and determined the number of meals that an effective employee should serve in a given day. Where a school’s lunchroom staff exceeded the efficiency measure, personnel were cut.

There are probably some other big areas that are going to suffer in this budget. Attached is the Excel file sent by the board. Let us know what you find.

Intern Amalia Oulahan contributed to this report