A closer look at school budgets released earlier this week shows that while losses for the coming school year were spread relatively evenly across the city, neighborhood schools with mostly black students, high levels of poverty or large numbers of English-language learners were more likely to see steep declines, as were schools that ranked in the lowest category under CPS’s school performance measurement system.
And while charter schools generally saw funding gains, those on the North Side were more likely to see a higher boost than those on the South and West sides.
A Catalyst analysis of school budgets for the coming year and demographic and school rating data from this school year, found that the median loss in a school budget for all types of schools was 1.9 percent. Schools that scored a Level 3, the lowest on CPS’s rating scale for school performance, saw a median loss of 7.9 percent, while Level 2 schools saw a 3.7-percent drop. Level 1+ schools, the highest-rated, saw budget losses on par with those seen across the city at all schools.
Among charter and contract schools — not including alternative schools — North Side schools saw a median gain of 3.0 percent in their budgets over last year, while South Side charters saw a 1.9-percent boost and West Side charters saw a 0.3-percent increase.
Mostly black schools and mostly poor neighborhood schools — those with 95 percent or more of those populations — saw, respectively, a median 4.7-percent decline and a 3.9-percent decline. Neighborhood schools where at least one-third of students are working to master English saw a median 3.0-percent drop in their budgets.
2. Black and Latino teachers … WBEZ reports that the number of Latino teachers in CPS is creeping upward, while the number of black teachers continues to decline and, compared to a decade ago, many more schools employ not a single black teacher. Overall, the teaching force has become whiter — and is less experienced — at a time when more than eight in 10 students are black or Latino.
Black teachers have fallen from 40 percent of CPS teachers to 23 percent over the last decade and a half, and 50 schools now have no black teachers, up from 10 a decade ago. CPS says the percentage of Latino teachers has grown to 19 percent, while the number of Latino students has grown to 46 percent.
WBEZ found discrepancies in reports on the number of CPS Latino teachers but says: “No matter the data source, one thing is true: Latino teachers are the minority among CPS teachers and their growth is not keeping pace with the rapidly growing Latino student population.”
A handful of organizations, like the community-based Grow Your Own and Noble Network of Charter Schools, recently launched teacher residency programs to help recruit more teachers of color, but there’s still concern that too few candidates are passing the basic skills test needed to obtain a state teaching license, and that too much emphasis is placed on entry into the teaching pool at the expense of support and development for those candidates.
3. Lost opportunity?… In other parts of the country, investment banks have paid government entities millions of dollars to settle claims that they did not sufficiently warn the agencies about the risks of the auction-rate bond market.
But CPS, which issued more of these risky auction-rate securities than any other school district in the country, won’t be getting a nickel, the Tribune reports. That’s because it didn’t pursue a claim before a legal deadline. District officials even acknowledged that “they don’t know whether CPS ever explored the option of filing a claim.”
The Tribune notes that filing a claim against banks doesn’t ensure CPS would recoup anything, although most other places that have done so have been successful. And while the “few million dollars” CPS could potentially stand to get back would address only a small portion of the budget gap, every dollar counts: “For example, the school district recently decided to save $3.2 million by cutting off coaching stipends for sports teams at the district’s elementary schools in the coming school year,” the Tribune notes.
4. Secret UNO payment … When United Neighborhood Organization CEO Juan Rangel left the beleaguered organization in the midst of a corruption scandal, he didn’t walk out empty-handed. Sun-Times reporter Dan Mihalopoulos, whose dogged reporting on the organization and its charter school network has led to multiple investigations, says Rangel got paid an extra $206,250 after he left amidst revelations that UNO had dealt millions of dollars in state grants to construction companies owned by the brothers of a top UNO executive.
The payout deal also gave Rangel health insurance for six months if he promised not to sue the charter school network. Perhaps the most troubling part of Mihalopoulous’ story is how long UNO fought to keep him from obtaining the records to get the story: more than a year. UNO’s board chairman Freddy Santiago says “the severance with Juan Rangel, while unfortunate, was necessary and not out of line with the practice of private and other nonprofit organizations with regard to CEO packages.”
5. Apprenticeships up … Apprenticeship programs are on the rise in the United States for the first time since 2007 and may offer a path to the middle class without the financial burden of a traditional college, the New York Times reports. In an age where a college graduate can face on average of more than $30,000 of debt, the opportunity to gain a hands-on, debt-free education is becoming more appealing nationwide, despite data showing college graduates are earning much more over a lifetime.
Chicago has had an apprenticeship program for four years. In 2011, the district partnered with the non-profit Spark and now provides vocational training to about 300 students in 10 schools. Spark reports that 95 percent of its students end middle school on track to graduate high school, compared to just over 70 percent district-wide.