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School Budget Information Sessions Set for LSCs, Parents, Public

By Casey Cora | April 23, 2014 8:15am
 Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett
Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett
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DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday (File)

CHICAGO — Newly elected members of local school councils and parents are invited to a series of information sessions tackling the ins and outs of student-based budgeting.

The next session takes place 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School, 2111 W. 47th St.

Two more sessions are scheduled for Thursday: 6-7:30 p.m. at Westinghouse College Prep High School, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd.; and 6-7:30 p.m. at Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Staffers with the CPS budget office will be on hand to provide an overview of the school budgeting process and to answer questions. The meetings are open to the public.

This year, the school system will continue implementing the new “student-based budgeting" system, which funds schools based on the number of students they have.

Draft versions of budgets for the 2014-2015 school year were sent to principals earlier this month; they'll be finalized 20 days into the start of the next school year.

Prioritizing that money is among the key responsibilities of the city’s local school councils, which are made up of a mix of teachers, community representatives, school staffers, parents and principals.

The task is made more important, school leaders say, under the district's new budgeting structure, which gives the councils “unprecedented autonomy to make decisions and approve individual school budgets that will drive learning and tailor resources based on the unique needs” of a school.

Elena Rios is a longtime council member at Southwest Side high schools who's been through similar trainings. She said audience members should demand answers from district officials on questions like funding formulas and the percentages of budgets headed to the councils for discretionary approval.

"They should get whatever they can in writing," she said.

Earlier this month, CPS announced an increase in the total amount of money, some $70 million, available to students enrolled at public schools.

But the Sun-Times reported the influx of cash “likely will just help keep up with inflation and teacher raises" and education activists have said the increase touted by CPS is just "less of a decrease," Progress Illinois reported.

The Civic Federation, meanwhile, blasted the election-year funding increases as an "accounting gimmick," WBEZ reported.

The local school council elections took place earlier this month. The new terms will begin in July.

In addition to some oversight of school spending, hiring and evaluating the school's principal and developing and monitoring the annual school improvement plan are among the councils' top duties.