Q&A with Sally Polasek

Do teens realize the impact that having a child could have on finishing school?

Kids are not very future-minded. And most of them were not planning on this. Most adolescent moms were sexually assaulted or abused before age 18.


A collection of facts, figures, and news briefs about school reform—both in Chicago and around the country.

How poverty funds are spent

Elementary schools earmark more than three-fourths of their poverty funds for instructional expenses. High schools, which by necessity have more administrative needs, spend more than a third of their poverty funding on non-instructional expenses.

Teaching parents to teach kids

At Pickard Elementary on a recent Friday, Maria Ramirez and her daughter Diana, a 2nd-grader, go through their morning ritual before class: hugs, kisses and a firm but gentle reminder to Diana to “be good.”

Budget crunch strains schools

Councils across the district are feeling financially squeezed this year, and those at schools on probation find themselves squeezed out entirely. The percentage of state and federal dollars going into schools’ discretionary pots is shrinking, and the purchasing power of those dollars has diminished significantly, a Catalyst analysis has found.

Homelessness on the rise in CPS

The number of homeless students in Chicago Public Schools has more than doubled over the past five years, but advocates believe the district is still undercounting them and CPS officials acknowledge there are problems with its tracking system.

Law, consent decree require student services

Under federal law, school districts must provide fee waivers, free lunches and any other assistance homeless students might need to attend school. Districts must also immediately enroll homeless students and make sure they know they can enroll in their original school.

‘The school helps in every possible way’

As part of budget cutting last September by Chicago Public Schools, Pamela Williams lost her job as an aide at Lawndale Community Academy and soon became homeless. Her son, whom she describes as a former “straight-A, honor roll student,” began to slip academically, even with the tutoring provided by the district.


To analyze how schools spend poverty funds, Catalyst adapted personnel and programmatic spending categories developed by the now-defunct Chicago Panel on School Policy for a 1995 study on school spending.

State poverty grant timeline

Supplemental General State Aid (SGSA) is the lifeblood of school reforms in Chicago. Previously known as state Chapter 1, its 32-year history marks the pendulum swing from centralized control of schools to local control and back.

Panel aims to shield school funding

When the Education Funding Advisory Board gave lawmakers its recommendation for a $1,441 increase in minimum per-pupil spending, the board made another little-noticed but far-reaching proposal that would, in effect, end the yearly battles over how much to spend on schools.


Business, civic and education leaders are urging legislators and the governor to spend $90 million on the state’s worst schools over the next three years, according to the March 11 Boston Globe.

Free reign, then reined in

At a March 15 meeting, Clemente’s LSC reviewed line items budgeted for the $2.2 million in poverty funds the West Town school is slated to receive next year. The process was a 10-minute formality since Area Instructional Officer Richard Gazda had already signed off.

Backers fall short with money, disclosure

In February, New Schools for Chicago teamed up with Mayor Richard M. Daley’s office to announce it had awarded $3.7 million to eight schools; so far, the group has not released a school-by-school breakdown of the grants.

Comings & Goings

Parents and teachers can learn more about their children’s school lessons through CPS’ new Virtual Kindergarten. The program, available in Spanish and English, allows parents to view the classroom lesson via video footage and duplicate the lesson at home.