Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss – Week of August 5, 2019

Mayor, School Leaders Say New Budget Is More Equitable Than Past Ones

By Sarah Karp for WBEZ

“Chicago Public Schools unveiled its budget Thursday with leaders saying that it represented a move toward a more equitable way of doling out money to schools. But, outside of a focus on money to repair schools, it is not drastically different than budgets under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s predecessor, Rahm Emanuel. The operating budget is $6.175 billion — an increase of almost $200 million from last year. The district is expecting more money from local property taxes and from the state. In addition, the school district is planning to spend $800 million to make repairs on old school buildings and to invest in renovating or adding preschool classrooms. As is always the case, the school district plans to borrow money to pay for most of its capital budget. CPS CEO Janice Jackson pointed to the way the school district plans to spend the $800 million as evidence that this budget is fairer than others in the past.The capital budget does not include any new construction or annexes, after a decade of more than 30 additions and new schools. Jackson said the focus back then was to relieve overcrowding, but that also meant more money went to the Northwest Side where schools were seeing an influx of students. She said now she plans to spend to make needed repairs.”

5 big questions for Mayor Lori Lightfoot about Chicago school funding reform

By Adeshina Emmanuel for Chalkbeat

“Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised to reconsider how Chicago funds schools during the next school year and explore ways to spend more on students with the most need.  But that raises plenty of questions about how Chicago Public Schools will prioritize spending to be more equitable at the nation’s third-largest school district.  Lightfoot’s pledge came Tuesday as she spoke about a teacher recruiting and retention program. She proceeded to pledge more resources for schools and create hundreds of critical support staff positions without saying how she’d pay for it. “The fortunes of CPS absolutely have improved,” Lightfoot said. “We feel comfortable this will fall within the resources we have.”  But while the district is on firmer financial footing than in recent years, thanks to a boost in state aid, it’s still paying off $8.4 billion in long-term debt. It runs an annual deficit and borrows to pay for day-to-day operations. How can it more equitably distribute the money it does have, all the while funding new programs, keeping others afloat and continuing to subsidize shrinking schools? Here are five other big questions.”

In Little Village, going back to school can be fun — even in the summer

By Annie Geng for the Sun-Times

“Little Village got in the spirit of the upcoming school year through the Chicago Public Schools-organized ‘Back 2 School Bash,’ where they were able to enjoy games and meet teachers. Annie Geng

Just because it’s early August doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about school. Crowds of Little Village families gathered Wednesday in back of Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy for the Chicago Public Schools-organized annual back to school bash, one of several events being held across the city this month. The lesson of the day: maybe going back to school wouldn’t be so bad after all. “I think it’s excellent,” said Kareem Pender, a CPS official responsible for planning Wednesday’s fest. “Schools are able to present information to parents [ahead of the school year] and give away school supplies.” Children of all ages clamored about as their parents picked up brochures from the dozens of schools in attendance.”

New Illinois law aims to increase high schoolers seeking federal aid for post-grad plans

By Adeshina Emmanuel for Chalkbeat

“To help pave the way to college, a new state law will require Illinois high school seniors to complete an application for federal student aid in order to graduate. The law, which goes into effect in fall 2020, takes a page from Chicago Public Schools, where about three in four high school seniors last school year completed the  Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA. The school district requires seniors to finish a detailed post-secondary plan in order to graduate.  The new law allows families to sign a waiver, for those not wanting to complete the application. In June, the school board updated the district’s school rating system to factor in high schools’ success helping students complete their post-high school plans, known as “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” plans.  A district spokeswoman said Chicago would continue tracking FAFSA completion rates and work with schools to ensure the state requirement is met.  Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the law Friday to nudge more students to access federal dollars for their post-secondary plans, whether they’re paying for college or vocational schools.”