Neighborhood high schools hit hard by more enrollment losses, funding cuts

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Parents, students, teachers and others rallied in Logan Square to protest cuts to neighborhood schools back in July.

Photo by Kalyn Belsha

Parents, students, teachers and others rallied in Logan Square to protest cuts to neighborhood schools back in July.

When CPS released its enrollment projections earlier this summer, neighborhood schools across the city braced for hits — and the loss of the dollars that come with each student.

But 10th-day enrollment numbers were even worse than projected: 16 district-run schools — all but two of them high schools — lost more than 100 students this year.

Among the worst-hit were Schurz, Foreman and Kelvyn Park — located on the city’s Northwest Side — and Dunbar, located on the South Side, all of which lost more than 200 students since last school year.

Jerry Skinner, who serves on the Kelvyn Park Local School Council and teaches English at the school, located in Hermosa, says he’s worried about teachers and support staff across the Northwest Side who are losing their jobs.

“I hope we can all band together as neighborhood open-enrollment schools,” he says, adding that the impact of the Renaissance 2010 plan to open new schools is finally “hitting our area, after hitting the West and South Sides.”

Enrollment data released late on Friday show a continuing trend of district-run schools losing students — even more than had been projected earlier this year — while charter and contract schools are educating slightly more CPS students.

Losses at top 27 schools

The lower enrollment means district-run schools will receive about $15.9 million less than was projected in July. (Unlike in previous years, CPS officials are not holding schools harmless if fewer students enroll than was projected.) Those additional cuts include about $13.3 million in funds set aside for per-pupil disbursement, as well as 52.5 fewer special education aides and 16.5 fewer special education teachers. For each lost teaching position, CPS estimated a $105,000 reduction, and for each lost aide position, another $50,000.

Twenty-seven schools are slated to lose at least half a million dollars — which includes the cost of special education staffers — on top of what was already cut in July. A Catalyst analysis of those schools shows:

  • Eleven are on the South Side, nine are on the West Side and seven are on the North Side
  • Twenty-one served nearly all poor students last year
  • Ten served nearly all black students last year and two served nearly all Hispanic students
  • Seven served more than than the district’s average of English-language learners last year, and 13 served more than the district’s average of special education students
  • Twelve schools were concentrated in only a handful of community areas populated mostly by Latino and black residents: four were in Humboldt Park, while two each were in Englewood, Douglas, New City and Woodlawn.

District officials say about 325 educators could lose their jobs because their school didn’t meet enrollment projections. Teachers will be notified on Oct. 5 — the 20th day of school — if they will be laid off.

In a statement, CPS officials said many schools were already planning for enrollment adjustments and had left some positions vacant or were holding onto contingency funds to avoid mid-year layoffs.

“CPS continues to work with our principals and their network chiefs to prepare for these adjustments, tracking enrollment leading up to school and in the first two weeks of class, so we believe principals are well-prepared for their adjusted budgets,” said Janice Jackson, CPS chief education officer. “As a former principal myself, I know that our school leaders are the best positioned to make smart decisions about scarce resources, and making sure that they have the most impact on our students’ learning.”

Further cuts may still be on the way. The district closed a half-billion-dollar hole in the 2015-16 budget with the hope that lawmakers in Springfield would agree to help CPS with pension relief. That hasn’t happened, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has indicated that up to 5,000 educators could be notified of layoffs in November if no state aid arrives.

LSC member wonders how they’ll cut another $500,000

Skinner says he’s not sure where else schools like Kelvyn Park High School can afford to make more cuts. Earlier this summer, when the school was expected to lose 125 students and $1.7 million, administration cut 19 staff members, including nine teachers, a career coach, a school counselor and the school’s only full-time social worker. But now that 77 fewer students showed up than projected, they’ll have to cut another $496,000.

He’s worried about low staff morale and how the draining of resources will make Kelvyn Park a less attractive option to families shopping for a high school.

“It’s like two car dealerships across the street and one has shiny cars and one has clunkers,” he said. “It’s hard to compete right now.”

Declining enrollment

Just under 367,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade showed up on the 10th day of school, district officials say. Compared to last year, the numbers reflect an overall loss of of 5,588 students, or about 1.5 percent. Previously the district predicted a loss of fewer than 900 students.

Declining enrollment at district-run schools is driving the overall enrollment drop across CPS, as charter schools gained slightly.  District-run schools lost more than 6,000 students — which is close to 2,200 more students than had been projected. (Back in July, CPS estimated a loss of about 3,900 students at district-run schools.)

The enrollment numbers don’t include children at school-based preschools, due to differences in how those slots are financed. However, the number of CPS preschool students should be similar or slightly higher than last year’s figure of 22,873 because of a variety of new early childhood grants and programs that have since come online.

Using last year’s count of preschoolers, the overall enrollment number would be just over 390,000 — which would be the lowest number in at least 50 years.

Leaving for the suburbs

“Families have left the city altogether,” says Tim Meegan, a social studies teacher at Roosevelt High School in the Albany Park neighborhood.

This year Roosevelt has 193 fewer students enrolled than last year — nearly twice as many students lost than had been projected. Meegan says it’s the first time in his 11 years at the school that the freshman class is smaller than the senior class.

When counselors and administrators reached out to potential students’ families, they were told they’d moved to suburban school districts, he says.

“How do you sell a school to a family when they know we’ve slashed electives, that teachers are disappearing?” Meegan asked.

Charter, contract school enrollment up less than expected

Meanwhile, enrollment at charter and contract schools grew slightly when compared to last year — but they, too, fell short of projections. The district expected 61,763 students at these privately run schools this fall, but just under 60,000 showed up.

In total, 16 percent of all CPS students in kindergarten through 12 grade attend charter or contract schools. That percentage rises to nearly 18 percent when privately run alternative schools are included with charter and contract schools.

The district won’t release school-level data on these privately run schools until after the 20th day enrollment counts take place.

258 schools fell short, 235 enrolled more than expected

Some 258 schools fell under enrollment projections, while 235 came in with more students. On average, the district overprojected enrollment by about five students per school.

Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere says he wasn’t surprised by Friday’s news that his Lakeview elementary school’s enrollment was slightly better than projected — by nine students — because he’s been looking at daily attendance since school started.

“Our budget didn’t get any more inadequate than it already is,” he said, adding that the additional per-pupil dollars of about $36,000 aren’t enough to hire another teacher.

One school that fared significantly better than projected is Kelly High School, where 101 more students showed up this fall than expected. Still, the school lost a total of 42 students from last year — and has been shedding students for years. A decade ago, more than 3,100 students were enrolled at Kelly; this year there are 2,255.

In recent months the principal of Kelly and other neighborhood high schools on the Southwest Side have rallied together to protest a proposal to open a Noble charter high school nearby, which they fear will drain more students.

Next month the Board of Education will consider proposals to open seven new charter school campuses, and a public hearing on the proposals will take place on Wednesday. Earlier this week, 42 of the city’s aldermen signed a resolution asking the city and Illinois State Board of Education not to open any new charter schools this school year.

Here’s a look at the 10 schools that were most above and below enrollment projections, according to CPS data:

Schools most above enrollment projections How many students above? Total enrollment
JOHNSON ELEM 132 453
KELLY HS 101 2,255
EDWARDS ELEM 93 1,308
GAGE PARK HS 83 419
IRVING ELEM 75 488
CARVER G ELEM 75 402
LYON ELEM 70 1,480
FOSTER PARK ELEM 67 334
MCAULIFFE ELEM 62 701
HEALY ELEM 60 1,377
Schools most below enrollment projections How many students below? Total enrollment
DUNBAR HS -173 771
SCHURZ HS -156 2,010
FOREMAN HS -144 1,046
LINCOLN PARK HS -123 2,116
LIBBY ELEM -112 364
STEINMETZ HS -110 1,538
ROOSEVELT HS -104 1,171
HYDE PARK HS -103 818
CHICAGO MILITARY HS -99 326
WELLS HS -90 467
  • Concerned Parent

    Thank you for publishing these enrollment numbers. It is important to understand that for schools showing a gain on this list, those schools may have had funds taken away. You need to see the funding adjustment document released on Friday to each school, to see the true funding loss or gain that CPS budget claims. To rely only on this list from CPS is not the whole story of losses, even for schools that show ‘gains’.

  • Concerned Parent

    be aware that there are cases where special ed may have added positions to a school, but they took positions away at that same school. This is another reason why you need to review the funding adjustment document.

  • Concerned Parent

    At our LSC meeting, it was odd that the network chief insisted that the principal of our school buy a position, as we have experienced a gain. What this chief does not know and our LSC did, was that we must feed the negatives in the budget first before a school can even think of adding any position. Once the principal does this, there will not be anywhere near enough funds to buy a position. You would think these chiefs would know this.

  • Concerned Parent

    CPS is going to deposit funds into the charter school accounts; then student enrollment numbers MUST be released to the public. What accountability plan does CPS have in place to assure that charters are reporting real students to account for the money that is tied to each per-charter-pupil’s head?

  • Concerned Parent

    LSCs of schools with ‘extra’ funds should wait until they know what the Rahm/Rauner brothers will do come November. Schools need to hold on to funds as a cushion with the punishing and massive cuts these 2 will allow.

  • Concerned Parent

    There is a whole office at CPS headquarters that has the responsibility to be the predictors of the September student enrollments of CPS schools. How could they have been so off? Do they not see the harm this causes?

    Why didn’t Markay Winston listen to principals when they were telling her and her reps that her All Means Fall was not going to work. Now students have not been given their services for a month – it it will take weeks before any teachers or aides can get into the schools to fulfill the IEPs of these vulnerable students.

    You couldn’t have stood up to Jessie, Rahm or ? and tell them this was hjarmful and wrong? Or was this your idea?

  • Concerned Parent

    How deep the disconnect between Ms. Winston’s office and networks? Her
    office tells schools to schedule the elementary and hs special ed students first,
    which is difficult to do. Then schedule all the other students around them. The chiefs tell principals not to do this and go after them for not having the reading hour, math hour, etc., or having to have them at different times.

  • Concerned Parent

    Ms. Winston states: …’we have seen an increase in staffing levels, a decrease in enrollment and yet no change in outcomes -…we must improve the way we deliver services.’ Yes, Ms. Winston, you and CPS must. You must stop huge class sizes, especially in the kindergartens and primary grades, stop placing autistic children with 14 cognitively delayed students who are in diapers at 9 years old with no one to change them because they cannot leave the autistic children alone. Stop saying enrollments are down when more low incident students are being sent to the neighborhood school, where the school is not equipped/staffed to handle them instead of being sent to a private day-school or the special school where they can get the services they need and deserve. Stop dividing school psychologists, social workers and nurses between 4-5 schools. Stop giving stretched/stressed counselors more paper work to complete for their evaluation rather than allow them time to get the case management done. Select professionals from social emotion and ODLSS who roll-up their sleeves and show teachers and aides how to do what you want instead of leaving them power-point presentations and numerous pages of lists.
    Hire network chiefs who have proof that they have reduced the special education line of students by showing improved test scores for them.