Chicago Public Schools budget | What does it mean for you?
Chicago Public Schools has announced its 2013 proposed budget, so you can now spend the rest of 2012 reading it. You can download the entire document as a pdf, or you can access CPS's online reader's guide, which includes a fairly daunting but endlessly fascinating interactive report feature, for parsing your school's budgetary outlook. I've been playing with it all morning, which has made me a very exciting conversation partner. It's a lot of information, and not all of it adds up. For instance, according to the master spreadsheet for every school, the budget of my local, Washington D. Smyser, is shrinking by roughly $61,500—a fairly small amount compared to many—though the school is somehow gaining four teachers. But when I drill down into the actual numbers, it appears as though the number of positions are going up from 54 to 56, which my computer calculator tells me is a difference of two.
Are you entertained, yet?
The point is that this is pretty heady, somewhat byzantine stuff, made all the more difficult by CPS's own numbers not jibing. So what does this mean for the average CPS parent? While it's important to consider what's happening at your kid's local school—which you can do by going to the interactive school reports and clicking on the "Find Your School Budget" tab furthest on the right—this year in particular it seems necessary to take the long view. As this Trib editorial notes, CPS is drawing down its reserves to pay for this budget, and sharp cuts are around the corner. This year's budget is almost inconsequential, given what the district will face in 2014. It's like the horror-show version of the old Cubs fan saying "Wait till next year."
Of course there are no easy answers, but it would be nice if there were some sort of answers at all. In the short term, you can look over your school's budget and try to figure out what it means for the staffing levels at your kid's school. In the long term, you can join the various parents groups, like the Raise Your Hand Coalition, who are agitating for more funding from the state, and a little more common sense for Rahm's unfunded mandate of a longer school year. And in the very short term, you can attend one of the three budget hearings planned for Wednesday night from 6–8pm (curiously, none on the North Side): Malcolm X College, Bruce K. Hayde Center, 1900 W Van Buren; Kennedy King College, The Great Hall, 740 W 63rd St; Daley College, Theatre, 7500 S Pulaski Ave.