Become a Catalyst member

Celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to by e-mail feeds

Current Issue

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.

CPS adopts per-pupil budgets, equal charter funding

After many years of discussion and a pilot program, CPS will this year make a radical shift in its budgeting practice by giving schools a set amount of money per student for core instruction, rather than allocating a certain number of positions based on enrollment. 

At the same time, the district will provide charter schools with the same amount of funding, on a per-pupil basis, as traditional schools—a practice that charter supporters have long advocated for. But with the exact amount of per-student funding still to be determined, it is unclear whether the move will be a boon or a detriment to charters, said Illinois Network of Charter Schools President Andrew Broy.

The new practice, called student-based budgeting in the education world, might seem merely a technical change. But in reality, it could have a far-reaching impact on the composition of teaching force and the equity of programs among schools.

CPS officials hailed the move as a way to give principals more power over their budgets and emphasized that the switch is not being done to save money. In the past, officials curtailed plans to adopt the practice because they were concerned about how it would work in a time of shrinking budgets.

Gray Elementary School Principal Sandra Carlson, whose school has been part of a per-pupil budgeting pilot program since 2006, said she is worried, considering the district is facing a projected billion deficit.

“I am waiting to see my new budget,” said Carlson. Yet she added that having more control over her budget has allowed her to respond better to past reductions in funding.

Student-based budgeting is touted as a way to give principals the flexibility to spend money in the way they see fit to best meet the needs of their students. Done well, advocates say, student-based budgeting can also bring more parity and transparency to school budgets. As it is now, the district’s funding formula is complicated and weighted so that it is difficult to figure out if one school is making out better than the other.

“I loved it when I was a principal,” said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who said the practice allowed her to add an art teacher at her school. Byrd-Bennett and Budget Director Ginger Ostro unveiled the new system on Monday.

Pitfall for veteran teachers?

But there are potential dangers. One is that principals will veer toward hiring inexperienced teachers to save money, or contract out programs, such as the arts, rather than hire a certified teacher. In 2005, Catalyst wrote about the pitfalls of per-pupil funding in 2005, when then CPS CEO Arne Duncan was looking at making the shift. 

CPS officials stressed that they don’t want to provide a disincentive to hiring experienced teachers and are creating a pot of money to help offset the salary cost to schools that have more than the average number of highly experienced teachers. As yet, it’s unclear how much money the district will provide to offset veteran salaries or whether it will be maintained as time goes on.

In a press release, the Chicago Teachers Union called the extra funding a "stop-gap measure." It "in no way compensates for the destructive, long-term, and systemic consequences of this program.”

There’s also concern that principals could misspend money. In the past, CPS officials have hesitated to move toward student-based budgeting because it meant that they lose control of budgets.

Byrd-Bennett said she believes that principals generally do what is best for their school, but that there will be safeguards in place. As is the case now, she said principals will have to get their budgets approved by the network offices. Also, the budget office will monitor for any unusual spending.

Currently, the district provides a regular classroom teacher for every 28 students in primary grades and one teacher for every 31 students for 4th grade and up. In addition, for every 750 students, the district provides an assistant principal, an art or music teacher and a librarian or gym teacher. Schools with smaller enrollments get part-time positions.

Questions of extra resources, charter benefit

Under student-based budgeting, principals will get a special amount of money per student and will have to decide how many teachers, clerks, art, gym and music teachers they need. While principals could decide to have extra-small class sizes and forego other things, they can’t raise class sizes beyond the limits established in the teacher’s union contract (28 for primary grades and 31 for upper elementary grades and high school).

Carlson said that student-based budgeting has had another big benefit for her: stability. Now, a school’s budget is based on the number of teachers for a projected enrollment. But if a school gets fewer students than expected, they stand to lose a teacher or two. For years, principals have complained about how disruptive this practice can be to students. In the past, Carlson has made the decision to reduce her equipment and supply budget rather than lay off a teacher.  

As they roll out student-based budgeting, CPS is side-stepping the thorny issue of how to handle the additional funding that schools get for low-income students, special education and bilingual students and for magnet and selective enrollment schools. This money will not be folded into the per-student allotment, but rather doled out based on the complicated formula currently in use.

Yet Ostro said that extra money and positions given to schools this year to implement the longer school day will be included in the per-student allocation.

Another question is how CPS will take into account the district’s high mobility rate.  Byrd-Bennett said that detail has not been worked out yet. In other districts with student-based budgeting, the money follows the student, up until a certain point in the year, at which time, the original school keeps the money, Byrd-Bennett said.

The district’s charter and performance schools have been funded using student-based budgeting since their inception. But they have always complained that they have gotten less than traditional CPS schools. Even after a boost in funding last year, they currently get 80 percent of the core costs, so Monday’s move could end up providing another boost in funding for them, Broy said.

Not only is it unclear whether the new per-student allocation will be more than the current amount charter schools get for each student, but Broy said that he doesn’t know how CPS officials plan to deal with the things charters pay for and traditional schools don’t. The biggest additional weight on charter school budgets are facilities and operations, he said.

(Note to our readers: Catalyst Chicago has changed our comment policy. Comments labeled "Anonymous" will no longer be allowed.)


Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

This seems sensible

I never understood the old budget model for exactly the reasons Ms. Karp talks about (mobility of children causes disruption in the budget, teacher hiring, etc). To me this makes sense and seems fair, you have 100 students you get a certain amount of money, you have 200 students you have a certain amount of money.

Sam Lofton wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Isat Testing

How is it that Assistant Principal Rhonda Russell Principal at Dewey Academy of Fine Arts is suppose to do make up Isat testing of students? Does the Principal or Assistant Principal suppose to test the students. Would that be considered as cheating. And why is it that Principal Eric Dockery makes his teachers ask permission to take their sick days off? Do teachers have to ask permission to take off if they have unused sick days per year. This schools scored could be easily inflated with the Assistant Principal Rhonda Russell Henderson testing the children during Isat testing this week.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Per Pupil Budget

Until schools know what amount they will be given per pupil, it's hard to say whether this will allow schools to keep their staff or cause them to have to lose positions like RTI teachers, bilingual coordinators, and others that are not in classrooms but provide very valuable services. Principals will have to staff each classroom, special ed. programs and the enrichment classes first, then see what's left over for these other positions. Schools could lose the people that provide classroom support.

Observer wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Oh, so magnet and selective

Oh, so magnet and selective enrollment schools do get extra funding. Why? "As they roll out student-based budgeting, CPS is side-stepping the thorny issue of how to handle the additional funding that schools get for low-income students, special education and bilingual students and for magnet and selective enrollment schools. This money will not be folded into the per-student allotment, but rather doled out based on the complicated formula currently in use."

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Waste of scarce education dollars

"Broy said that he doesn’t know how CPS officials plan to deal with the things charters pay for and traditional schools don’t. The biggest additional weight on charter school budgets are facilities and operations, he said."

Broy points out the waste and inefficiency associated with charter schools. Why should tax payers pay for more school buildings when Chicago already supposedly has too many?

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Student-based budgeting and quality teachers

It used to be that teachers were encouraged to continue their education beyond the minimum certification requirements. Teachers have paid their own way through graduate school and beyond to gain greater knowledge with minimal compensation for their efforts. Now these same teachers will be judged too expensive to stay in the schools they have helped build. Shame on CPS.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago


The last time I checked the AP and Principal held teaching certs, so yeah, they can test ISAT. Really even if they did make ups on a handful of kids this is not going to make their scores become inflated.

Sam Lofton wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago


Thank you Anonymous.

Sam Lofton wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Isat Testing

Maybe the Principal and Assistant Principals are practicing for being in a classroom next year when their schools close and they are ousted for under utilization and low performance. There comes a time when people are brought down to ground level.

CPS educator wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Per Pupil makes sense

As a principal that has ran a school with per pupil funding and with quota positions I can tell you that per pupil is better. So many myths about how it impacts veteran teachers. First you should know that when principals receive our budgets for next year, ALL of our current teachers salaries will be accounted for and what's left over is what we will have to budget. No one loses a job because we move to per pupil. Teachers cannot be fired indiscriminately- they have a process and rights under their contract. Secondly, based on what my budget will allow I can now hire a music teacher full time OR pay for a music program which would cost considerably less. Isn't that what you want your principals to do- be good stewards over the budget and save when we can? I'm not firing anybody I just have the ability to make a choice now. Before CPS gave schools positions and most schools do not have a music teacher because it was not allotted by CPS. Selective enrollment schools and other high performing schools have been under this funding for several years, I think its great that every school is now funded the same way! Finally, if I have a position to hire for yes I may consider the cost of the teacher. But a bad teacher costs me much more in the long run whether they are a new or veteran teacher. I am going to hire the BEST candidate for my school. Doesn't CTU protect all teachers- new and veteran? Why should you be more concerned about veteran versus new teachers- they are all teachers who pay their dues for CTU to protect and advocate for both. Every veteran teacher started off as a new teacher at some point including me. Having experience doesn't make you the best teacher nor does it make you less attractive to me when I am hiring. I spent over 12 years in the classroom so I too was a veteran teacher when I came out of the classroom. I was good but I did not know half of what I know now and I am sure there were many that were better than me. Per pupil is fair and equitable and I look forward to making the change!

Ed Dziedzic wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago


If all principals were fair, like you, CPS Educator, it would probably be ok. But given that the CPS has made it obvious that cuts will happen and people in those 80 schools will lose jobs, it is very likely a bunch will hit the job market all at once. This appears to be a way for CPS to let go of a number of veteran teachers, since many principals will hire new, cheap teachers rather than these veterans.

CPS educator wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Thank you Ed for the

Thank you Ed for the compliment but I do not think I am any different from anyone else. I just believe that principals should be held accountable and with that accountability should come the ability to hire the best fit for my school and to have more control over how the budget is used. That's why I like per pupil funding. Plus don't forget the LSC will continue to oversee budget decisions made by principals as they do now. I believe that the checks and balances are necessary when one has so much control over the lives of so many.

Rod Estvan wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Per pupil funding perfect for coming cuts

I am surprised that CPS educator is enthralled with per pupil funding. I assume principals understand the funding cuts Illinois and the Federal government will be making and the reduced funding CPS will be providing to schools. To write as CPS educator does "based on what my budget will allow I can now hire a music teacher full time OR pay for a music program which would cost considerably less," is fantastic in our current situation. Your school budget could very well require the elimination of music, but CPS still have the legal power to mandate it if they want to.

Per pupil funding allows CPS to do is to shift responsibility for cuts to the local level. In effect they are telling principals here are the mandates for academic improvement here is your reduced funding and now you figure out how to do it. It also allows CPS to contain property tax increases if it wants to and simply blame principals for being weak managers with the funds they have been provided. It's not going to be a choice between young or older teachers, it's going to be far more difficult choices than that. Illinois is a fiscal disaster and so is the City of Chicago. There is no golden sunrise coming that will shower cash on schools be they charters or traditional public schools.

While I believe it is unlikely that Governor Quinn's full education cuts will get through the appropriations process in the Illinois General Assembly, it is also unlikely that there won't be cuts. It is also unlikely Illinois will be able to make its payments to school districts in a timely manner any time soon. Other states like Minnesota are increasing k-12 funding because of an increase in revenue due to more people working and paying taxes. But even in Minnesota the funding increase will not make up for what schools have lost in funding over just the last two years. Illinois too is receiving increased revenues, but those funds are going to pay the huge debts the state has piled up and the cuts must continue.

If the Chicago Principals & Administrators Association takes the same position as CPS educator then they have lost contact with reality, not that they can stop the imposition of per pupil funding either. Cheering for the freedom to make administrative choices with declining funds is somewhat strange.

Rod Estvan

Northside wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

CPS Educator

I guess I have a few questions:

1)You use phrases like "my budget", and if "I have a position to hire" etc. You almost speak like your school is your own private business? I thought principals are supposed to be community leaders, not owners. Sounds like you own your PUBLIC school

2) If you were really a teacher for 12 years, you know not ALL teachers work under a fair system. Maybe your school is fair, and so are you, but you would have to have seen some of the shinanagans that goes on at CPS.

3) You say that years don't make a teacher better? Yet you say that now that you are "principal" you know a lot more now?

4) You say you are going to hire the "BEST"...can you explain this....more so what makes you the BEST

5) I just think principals like you who feel like you have somehow arrived, are above the rest of us. You run your school with too many "I"s way too many. Speak to other teachers, parents, students to help run your scholl. That school is not is the peoples. I would be careful putting so much trust in could be next....

Michelle wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Per Pupil Funding

There have already been unfair Principals who have fired veteran teachers for the reason that I just need to get rid of them because they are eating up my budget. They labeled them as unsatisfactory just because they could write it on the line; just to get them out of the way. When Cps had control of the money; veteran teachers were treated fairly; now they are just thrown out; and if done unfairly they should still have their jobs. They are no longer wanted nor needed. They aren't considered as humans any more. Mind you. The Principals who do this to these people will be veterans one day; and what goes around will come around.

Northside wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

cps educator

I guess I also wonder how you are allowed to use catalyst during working hours? If I, as a teacher, did that...I would be written up

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

In response to Northside's

In response to Northside's questions above:
1. If I spoke in I terms it is bc I am the one that works with the budget. There are many things we work as a team doing in my school but budget is not one of them. If you look 2 posts down I go on to say the LSC oversees the budget as a check and balance and I think that's a good system.
2. Yes I was really a teacher and yes I've seen and worked for unfair principals. But that has nothing to do with the topic of per pupil funding. I'm not sure how the two equate.
3. What is wrong with admitting I know more now than I did then? I tell my teachers all the time they know much more than I did as a teacher. I
would hope that I learn more each year.
4. I never said I was the best. I talked about hiring the best fit for the school. I am in a position to say what the best fit is for my school. I also have candidates to teach a demo lesson and then they interview with a panel of 3 teachers before we hire.
5. I'm sorry you feel that way but I don't see what I said to cause that reaction. And not sure what you mean by putting trust in CPS- my school is on the list of possible closures. That does not change anything for me. I remain who I am and stand by my beliefs despite that.
6. Finally in response to your remark about how I can be on Catalyst. My school is testing still. NOBODY moves during testing so I like to stay informed and I read the Catalyst and other education sites while I sat in my office during testing. Every teacher gets a prep and as long as you have no kids in front of you why would you be fired.
All I wanted to do was to clear up some misconceptions about per pupil funding. No one on this thread except me can say they have experience with a school budget that was quota based and per pupil based. It is my opinion and I really hate when people are attacked for their opinions.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Sam Lofton

@ Sam Lofton
Maybe the Principal and Assistant Principals are practicing for being in a classroom next year when their schools close and they are ousted for under utilization and low performance. There comes a time when people are brought down to ground level.

I don't count teaching as being "brought down to ground level." That's offensive!

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Class size limits?

The article states, "...they can’t raise class sizes beyond the limits established in the teacher’s union contract (28 for primary grades and 31 for upper elementary grades and high school)." This implies there are actual caps on class size in CPS. Unless something has changed it is more complicated than this. An elementary school I know consistently has classes above 30 in 1st and 2nd grade, and usually above 31 in 6th grade. Does the new contract have actual caps on class size? I thought it was an average over the entire school -- calculated with a formula of number of students grades 1-3 times 28, and then 31 times number of students grades 4 - 8, plus a more complicated formula for kindergarten and then positions assigned to the school and the school divides up the kids as best they can -- so for example I have been at an elementary school with 37 in each of the 6th grade classes because that year the 5th grade was "small" and only had 28 per class, but that was below the 31 they needed ...I think it is really important that Catalyst is clear about class size issues -- neighborhood schools especially often have uneven class sizes because they cannot turn away kids who move in to the boundary during the year and as far as I know there are no actual class size caps, just averages on the 20th day.

Don Taylor wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Fair Education

School closings will help many children who need to get a more efficient education than they are getting in the low performing and under utilized schools that they are in. Even the students can tell when the schools are empty. They need to be in the environment of more resources. Books and workbooks. A Library. They need the supplies to better themselves for testing. Some schools have them; and some schools don't. A change in environment will motivate the children to want to learn. This will give them that opportunity to aspire, also. Sitting in one spot on probation for years is not taking those students anywhere but backwards. The teachers and administrators at those schools are being paid; but the student's scores are so low that they do not and have not in a long time met or exceeded. This is not fair. Those students deserve a chance. A change would be better than not having an opportunity to show gain.

Rod Estvan wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Re: nothing good likely to happen

While it can more than reasonably be argued that CPS has schools that are not effective and sitting with empty space in them, it is really hard to see children getting any real benefit from the closings. CPS and public education in Illinois, with the exception of extremely high income districts with high property taxes, is in a downward spiral.

CPS is not going through the closing process and facing the opposition it has been facing because its part of a great plan to make things all better for children. It is simply trying to survive, but the saving from closings will be so small that it is hardly worth the effort even on the scale of 80 schools. Because the majority of teachers and parents in Chicago really only get news about CPS and a few suburban school districts they are largely unaware about how districts across our state are in the most literal way falling apart.

At ISBE's last Board meeting a district asked for a waiver on the required number of instructional hours per week, eliminating one full day of instruction a week and cutting all teachers and staff's hours of employment. They proposed having the children in basically home school one day a week. ISBE rejected this waiver request. This school district did not feel in could yet again increase its property taxes.

Mr. Taylor simply can not be serious in his argument within the fiscal context CPS and other school districts find themselves in. I would suggest that he is repeating the company line, a line by the way even what is left of the CPS central apparatus probably does not fully believe.

Rod Estvan

Rod Estvan wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Just for the record

The school district that was requesting to reduce the number of days of instruction each week was Meridian CUSD 101. ISBE did not approve in. Below is Meridian's basis for the wavier:

The Public Hearing of the Meridian CUSD #101 Board of Education was called to order
at 5:45 p.m. by President, Jill Bosecker for the purpose of discussing a 4-day school
week waiver.
Members present included President – Jill Bosecker, Vice President – Jerri Thurston,
Secretary – Warren Jackson, Mike Hileman, and Carl Riley. Also present: Terry
Moreland, Brent Boren, Terrance Gaddy, Iwanda DeBerry, Laura Meier, Ron and
Jeanine Woods, Carol Thurston, Leslie Thurston, Hilary Crain, Justin Crain, Renata Lane,
JoAnne Holley, and Mary Caison.
The district is looking into a 4-day school week because of the following things:
Funding sources
Reduction in General State Aid (GSA)
Possible Reduction in Federal Funds
Late State Payments
* Petition to assist in receiving 4-day work week
* Transportation Routes/Savings
* Consolidation Funding
* Employees Benefits
* Class Sizes
* Reduction of Employee Hours
* Utilities
* Reduction in General State Aid
* Reduction in Federal Funding
* Late State Payments
* Funding percent received for local, state, and federal
* State of our county’s economy
A motion was made by Mike Hileman and seconded by Carl Riley to adjourn this public
hearing for 4-day school week waiver.
Member Vote: AYES: 5 –Mike Hileman, Carl Riley, Warren Jackson, Jerri Thurston,
and Jill Bosecker; NAYS: 0;

Anonymous wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

The 20,000 parents and

The 20,000 parents and students who showed up at the hearings disagree. Maybe you should listen instead of speaking for "other people's kids". Can we close your kid's school instead?

Northside wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

This "secret" teacher army

I love the way these education "reformer" talk about this "secret" calvery of teachers that will change EVERYTHING. I don't get it...what do we teachers have to do with all of these bad buildings and zero supplies...

C.L. Ball wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Magnet, SE funding: press release v. reporting

Both Catalyst and the Tribune write that magnet and SE schools will not be funded under the per pupil formula, but neither story attributes this statement to any specific CPS official. The CPS press release states: "The remaining 50 percent of a school’s budget is made up of non-core instruction funding, which may include supplemental general state aid and money for special education, magnet, International Baccalaureate, bilingual, STEM, English language learner and Title I programs. These funds will not be affected by the funding formula change." This implies that _all_ schools will have per pupil funding instead of formula funding for their core positions, but that additional funds would be allocated for various programs. In some respects, this is not all that different from what occurs now. A neighborhood school and a magnet school of the same enrollment and distribution across the grades currently receive the same amount under the formula; the magnet school gets extra money and positions for its magnet program. Under per pupil, a neighborhood and magnet with the same enrollment, regardless of distribution across grades, would receive the same per pupil, and the magnet would continue to get more.

Michael R Butz wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

CPS Educator

CPS Educator - Your comments reflect a good deal of time working in the system both as a teacher and a principal. They also reflect a working knowledge of reality.

I applaud you and agree with you. You will have to take all manner of challenges and insults for your position, but you are right. Every school should have such a good Captain in charge.

Former CPS Board member wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Per-pubil funding

Per-pupil funding has been advocated for schools for years. As a tool aiming for equity and educator accountability in the schools, it makes sense to drive the budget to the school level. This should allow for more accountability on the extra special dollars also. It is unfortunate that the move comes in such a charged and challenging economic environment as it will cloud the transparency that this change could provide.

Ed Dziedzic wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago


Except this is clearly a way to dump professional educators and replace them with interchangable Wal-Mart type employees. BBB has stated that the level of trust that parents and teachers have for the Board is almost nil. If they want people to believe this isn't a way to clear out veteran teachers they should prove it.

Michael R Butz wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

How, specifically, do you

How, specifically, do you think the Board and BBB cold restore trust, Ed?

Ed Dziedzic wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Frankly, I Don't Know

It is like restoring trust in a marriage after one partner is caught cheating. It would have to be a long process and certainly not something that could be done overnight. Let me say that this current book banning fiasco is moving everyone toward even less trust.
They just have to stop lying and acting as if parents and teachers are too dumb to be trusted with any decision making power.

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more