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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

For the record: Are charter schools and district-run schools treated equally?

Both sides--charter school proponents and regular public school advocates--say the other gets more. The truth is complicated.

When CPS presented its 2013-14 budget last month, officials touted the new student-based budgeting as a way to distribute money to schools more equitably.

Schools would receive a certain amount of money for each child rather than a certain number of teachers, which traditionally has been one for about every 30 children.

This formula would apply to core school funds -- between $4,140 and $4,400 for elementary school students and $5,132 for each high school student. The core allocation is about half of a school’s total allocation. Schools also receive state and federal poverty funds, and money for special education, bilingual education, facilities and lunchroom operations.

Charter schools have always received their money on a per-pupil basis; now, district-run schools would join them. Yet advocates for each side contend the other is coming out ahead. And advocates who study CPS budgets decry the lack of information on a large part of charter school funding.

“We don’t know what makes up the bulk of the difference between charters and other schools,” says Rod Estvan of Access Living, a disability rights organization. “There are too many possibilities and too many unknowns.”

On Tuesday, Estvan released his annual budget analysis, which examines student-based budgeting and how it affects special education students in charters and neighborhood schools. 

In an earlier report, the Civic Federation also called for more transparency in charter school funding. 

Charters appear to get more

Judging from the entire allocation to each school, charter schools appear to have the advantage: More than 70 percent of charter schools are getting the same amount or more for each student than they did last year, a Catalyst analysis shows. Meanwhile, only about 10 percent of district-run schools are holding steady or seeing an increase, and most of those are welcoming schools that got extra resources under the district’s school closing program.

Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, says that whatever advantage charter schools look like they are getting is because they started out behind.

Last year, under an agreement with the Gates Foundation, CPS increased charters’ per-pupil funding by 5 percent to bring them more in line with regular schools. Even so, says Broy, charter elementary schools were a bit underfunded, while high schools were “about right.”

This year, he says, charter high school directors are reporting that they have less money. 

 “There is a wide variance,” he says.

Increases aside, charter schools are getting, on average, $600 for elementary schools to $900 for high schools more per student in their total allocation than district-run schools get, the Catalyst analysis shows.

Broy says that’s because many services for district-run schools come out of the CPS central office budget, not school budgets. CPS spends $1.6 billion on central, citywide services, such as social workers and psychologists, and network offices, Broy notes, but charter schools do not receive any of those services.

“If we call the general counsel’s office and say we have a legal problem, they won’t help us,” he says.

Reasons for differences

Though CPS funding for charters and district-run schools is increasingly similar, continued differences complicate comparisons between the two.

Here are some of the factors:

NON-TEACHING PERSONNEL--CPS pays directly for some staff and services at district-run schools and also provides several in-kind services. 

CPS budget director Ginger Ostro says CPS calculated the cost of these staff and services and then provided an additional per-student stipend for charter schools. This benefits some charter schools, especially larger ones, but to others it could be to a detriment, Ostro says.

The CPS budget book pegs the cost of such services at $775 million but adjusts the pot to $705 million to account for school budget cuts CPS made to address the CPS deficit. This is the money that Estvan and Chicago Teachers Union researcher Pavlyn Jankov question. It is a “huge problem” that CPS does not spell out what the $705 million includes, Jankov maintains.

On top of their allocation of the $705 million, each charter also got about $550 per student for other administrative staff like the principal, and another $100 per pupil to help offset the salaries of veteran teachers who make more than the average district salary.  (Only about a third of district-run schools got extra money for veteran teachers.)

At each regular school, CPS covers the cost of a principal, assistant principal and clerk regardless of how much they are paid.

PENSIONS--Another complicating factor is that CPS has always paid the employer portion of the pension for charter school teachers on top of the per pupil allocation. (Certified charter school teachers are part of the same pension system as CPS teachers.)

This year, for both charter and district-run schools, the pension cost is part of the core allocation for teacher salaries. This means that all schools will have to dip into their own budgets to pay the employer share, which CPS estimates at about 10.6 percent of each certified teacher’s salary.

For charter schools, it feels like a budget cut.

“I don’t feel like I won anything,” says Rhonda Hopps, executive director of Perspectives Charter School network. 


SPECIAL EDUCATION--Under the Gates agreement, CPS promised it would “equitably” reimburse charters for special education student services. Charters have long complained about CPS paying only up to $65,000 for each special education teacher, when most cost more.

Under the Gates Compact, CPS promised to reimburse charters for the entire teacher salary, unless it is deemed excessive. This resulted in an increase in the amount CPS is paying for charter school special education last year and again this year.

Further, charter schools are at a bit of an advantage in another area pertaining to special education students.

Estvan’s analysis shows that schools will not be given the full per-pupil rate for severely disabled students. Under a weighted formula, they are counted as 43 percent of a whole child. The reason, according to the CPS budget book, is that “so much of their instruction is provided by special education teachers, which are funded outside of student-based budgeting.”

Regular schools serve far more severely disabled children – 2.2 percent of enrollment, compared to 0.4 percent for charters.

“Some students with disabilities attending CPS are going to be worse off with this approach,” Estvan says in his report.

Further, says Estvan, CPS’s school utilization formula didn’t account properly for classrooms used by significantly disabled students.

He fears that these two things will deter principals from taking in severely disabled students.  

Over all though, says Estvan, the biggest problem with the CPS budget is that it doesn’t have enough revenue. CPS needs more money, he says, and should be advocating for a property tax increase above the tax cap, a statewide financial transaction tax and a graduated income tax.

The Board of Education is set to approve the budget on Wednesday.


Anonymous wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

CPS is part of the Gates

CPS is part of the Gates District Charter Compact, which requires participating districts to fund charters at the same level as district schools. When CPS couldn't get Springfield to pass legislation to increase charter school funding to make it equal to district schools, they changed the way they fund local schools and effectively reduced the school level funding to $2,000 less per student than the state formula prescribes. What a pity that CPS will damage their core product in order to bring on more charters.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Link to Estvan's analysis

I don't see a budget article on the webpage you linked to. Did I miss it or is it somewhere else?


skarp wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Estvan's analysis

I couldn't find Estvan's budget analysis on Access Living's website either. I just attached it and linked to it. Thanks for pointing that out.

Rodestvan wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

report will be up tomorrow

The report will be up tomorrow on Access Living's website. If you can't wait e-mail me at I will send you a pdf. I will be available for the next two hours.

Rod Estvan

Sarah Hainds wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Broy is incorrect on central office support

Andrew Broy said that CPS doesn't provide citywide services, such as social workers, to charter schools and that is incorrect. In addition to that service, charters also receive professional development and lots of other school support from the CPS central office. This is easy to prove because CPS lists the schools that will receive services from various vendors in the monthly board actions. Here's an example:

Also, charters receive a huge facility assistance via the $1 annual rent and the guaranteed facility upgrades that charters seem to always get (Noble-UIC Prep and Noble-Bulls are already getting more capital upgrades after CPS spent a lot of money on the buildings after they closed the neighborhood schools).

After all of this support, charters are allowed to act as "private" institutions and refuse to disclose any pertinent information about their operations or evaluations. It's bitterly ironic that CICS used the campaign slogan of "public means public" when it was trying to get more money from the state - charters are publicly funded and privately run, so public does not in fact mean public when it comes to charters.

Chicago An wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Central Office(s)

Per pupil still doesn't tell us how much is going directly to students versus how much is going into charter administration. For all the trumpeting about the CPS central office cuts (okay, I'm laughing here), we now have multiplied the number of "central offices" 10-fold with each charter organization duplicating administrative services formerly supplied by CPS. So now we have numerous CEO's (like UNO's Juan Rangel making 250K) instead of one. Wow. What a new and improved system.

George N. Schmidt wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Charters provided with student contact lists...

Another subsidy, which was exposed seven or eight years ago when the "new" CICS Irving Park "campus" was taking over the Immaculate Heart of Mary school building, was that the (then) "Office of New Schools" was providing the charter with a contact list of all the "top" (i.e., highest scoring) students in the local elementary schools (Reilly spoke out at the Board meeting; Arne lied denying it...).

My younger sons were then at the Mount Olive "Parent Co-op" pre-school (CPS didn't have available pre-school then; I got to be "Dad of the day" from time to time). The charter school was given every opportunity to recruit from the Co-op, too. Since the Co-op parents were all upper middle class (and virtually all white), it was another edge over Reilly and the other nearby schools. That was before Old Irving Park got its own little private public school (Disney II) thanks to Arne, and was able to kick out the last poor or working class kids from the area (they closed "Irving Park Middle School" against the well organized protests and sent the kids east to Thurgood Marshall Middle).

The charters are predators. They were also hiring marketing people to make home visits and do the sell. The marketing people weren't told they would be fired once the schools were opened and filled. None of this stuff is news.

Andrew Broy's selective versions of reality are a monthly treat at Board of Education meetings. As Sarah Hainds points out, they have a way of ignoring facts...

Fall's a comin' wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

don't foget chiefs making $156k-did they get bonuses too?

and include the cost to run their 'divas' at the networks.

Fall's a comin' wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

This is not correct: not the AP --it is the counselor only

"At each regular school, CPS covers the cost of a principal, assistant principal and clerk regardless of how much they are paid."
CPS only covered the clerk, principal and counsleor--even with elementary schools of over 1000 students and many buildings (Our school had 3 distinct seperate buildings.)
This the middle of the end of neighborhood public schools.

George N. Schmidt wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

CAFR includes one version of charter costs -- you can find it

Although CPS refuses to distribute the CAFR to libraries and ward offices, as it did before everything became talking points about "transparency" (to mask the fact, "Animal Farm" style, that everything was being hidden), the public can still locate the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) from CPS and read, in the final listings, the comparative data for the charter and real public schools. Of course, in order to read the CAFR, you first have to find the CAFR.

Although CPS has been willing to pay millions of dollars in "performance bonuses" to principals and a lesser amount in "relocation costs" to out-of-town bureaucrats (imported like the guy who will present the "performance policy" at today's Board meeting), there is never money for, say, publishing the CAFR in print, as was done for more than a hundred years, and making it available in every one of the city's public libraries, as was done for more than a hundred years.

There is something 1984-ish about this Brave New World created by Rahm Emanuel and Barbara Byrd Bennett (and most of the corporate media hacks who recycle their talking points as "news") that makes me laugh as we read "Animal Farm" with our two (public school) sons.

Neighborhood now wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Estvan actually wrong on one point

While I think much of what Rod Estvan wrote in the Access Living report is right on, I do think he needs to correct one item with regard to how Student Based Budgeting impacts general education money for special education.

I don't know if Estvan realizes it, but CPS HAS ALWAYS counted students with disabilities, or diverse learners, as a percentage of a person for the allocation of general education positions. It came in the form of an adjusted enrollment number at our school. Previously, that number was "0" for those with severe disabilities.

Under the new system, they actually increased the amount of a child they covered based on their LRE - increasing it from "0" to ".4" or ".7" or "1", depending on how much time that child actually spent in a general education classroom.

So while it is still not enough to cover what I think they need (true for everything, I know), to say that they were worse off than other the old system because this is somehow a new thing to discount them is just factually inaccurate.

Rod should update that point in his otherwise excellent report, or else it risks being dismissed. We can't dismiss what incremental successes our district is actually having, or we won't get any concessions in the future.

Chicago dad wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago


But don't we need massively parallel ranks of corporate drones to drive up those all important test scores? Glad to see someone talking about the waste of replicating those who are supposed to be running the schools (it's their damn job!) by each and every charter school operator.

Rod Estvan wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Re Neighborhood now

For revenue purposes CPS counts all children equally regardless of their time in general education classrooms, they always have. Under the quota system there were all kinds of annomallies for programs for those students defined as LRE 3. If the program was citywide it was looked at one way, if the program was unique like a program run by the Hope Institute at ChicagomVocational it was treated as part of the contracting program and on and on.

Purposely I did not attempt to critique the quota system and compare it to the SBB system. That I think would have required a massive amount of work that I did not have the resources for. I know excellent principals who told me repeatedly that by taking self contained program under the quota system they had to encroach big time on discressionary funds. To prove that would have been difficult work.

So CPS has abandoned the quota system and now institionalized a general eduction funding approach that formally discounts the most disabled students in the city based on a time measurement system. The long term impact of this approach will make things even worse for those children than they were under the quota system.

I also did not discuss what CPS calls its PARF special education staff allocation system, it merits a very deep dive analysis. I wish I had the funding to take apart that system and expose it to the light of day, but I did not unfortunately.

Rod Estvan

George N. Schmidt wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

All schools suffering this week from CPS budget hypocrisies

Every day, more and more schools are contacting just about everyone with any influence about the mess created by this budgetary nonsense by the current leadership of CPS. Cleaning up the class size messes that Barbara Byrd Bennett and Tim Cawley are overseeing will last at many schools into October. Cawley's crooning (both on July 24 and August 28) to the Board meetings crashes nastily into the facts, with the overcrowded classes from one end of town to the other made even more difficult by the fact that CPS still hasn't air conditioned most schools. Therefore, starting "school" the last week of August is another lousy idea from the current Board and leadership "team" (as it likes to call itself).

As a half dozen of the speakers at the Board meeting have pointed out, for all the prattle about how much they care about the schools and how much they have reduced "central administration" the fact is that Cawley, Byrd Bennet and their ilk have expanded several useless departments this year, to the tune of millions. This is on top of the $20 million for SUPES (thanks Catalyst on this one) and all the money wasted on the school closings. Just the cost of the WHITE OUT-ing of all the signs telling people that the schools were once named after famous black people (literally from Crispus Attucks to Arna Bontemps; from Matthew Henson to Jesse Owens) is an expensive racist crime for which Rahm Emanuel and Barbara Byrd Bennett will never be forgiven. Those white guys with the snorkel trucks changing the signs (and even putting the white out on the building facades over the school names) are costing a fortune -- when CPS is refusing to hire teachers.

It's ironic that the charters and real public schools of Chicago are suffering from this criminal malpractice equally at this point in history.

But the fact now is that most of the members of the "leadership team" at CPS (the group that Barbara Byrd Bennett calls he "cabinet") have no teaching experience in Chicago, know nothing about Chicago, and, like Byrd Bennett herself, are expensive mercenaries brought to town by Rahm Emanuel to destroy as much of public education as possible before they go on to their next assassins' jobs.

Those who are interested can read the list of all of them (and the cost of moving them from places like Detroit, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Cleveland to Chicago) elsewhere.

Perhaps the biggest hypocrites are the members of the school board. All but two of them have real CPS and/or Chicago roots. It's amazing to me how "Andy" Zopp can sit at the meetings of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund Board of Trustees and prattle about local hiring and minority and women hiring -- for the pensions -- and then turn around a week later and vote to hire a bunch of out-of-town mercenaries (with "relocation" costs) for the top jobs at the school board. But her hypocrisy is part of a pattern...

Chicago dad wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago
Neighborhood now wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

Re: Neighborhood Now

Rod, sorry to say, but you're wrong. CPS has always "formally" discounted disabled students. It is just doing so less-so now.

Under the old system, if a student was ARS "C" (required less than 750 minutes of SPED instructional time per week) they were counted as a whole student for allocating gen ed teachers. Under the new system, they still are counted as a whole student.

If a student was ARS "F" (more than 750 minutes), they were counted as a big fat "0" when it came to allocating gen ed teachers even though they used resources from other teachers funded by gen ed dollars (art, gym, library, etc.). Under the new system, the LRE 2s who fall in this category are a "1" and the LRE3s of this category are counted as ".4" of a student to account for the time they spend with those others teachers.

Its more money - Its one of the things that is going in the right direction. This isn't about having resources to dig into the whole system. This was a very transparent surface-level detail that was widely discussed.

Now the PARF process... don't get me started!

seo company wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

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