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Drugs in schools

Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

For the Record: Paying for school actions

To help sell their plans for a district shakeup, CPS leaders have touted a variety of school improvements. But paying for those improvements will mean taking the district deeper into debt at a time when the district is already facing substantial debt service obligations.

Should it be approved by the Board of Education, CPS will issue a $329 million bond to pay for improvements at welcoming schools, turnarounds, schools with co-locations and a few other special district projects, according to a supplemental capital budget released last weekend. Though the bond details haven’t been worked out yet, CPS spokesman David Miranda says the district is projecting debt service payments, including principal and interest, of about $25 million a year for 30 years, starting in 2015.

The debt service payments will be more than covered by the $43 million a year in operating costs saved by closing schools, Miranda says.

“It is a good thing to invest in these schools and we would want to do it regardless of whether we close schools,” he says. “It is difficult to educate students when there’s no air conditioning or students are not warm or dry or safe.”

One looming question, however, is whether CPS can afford to take on more debt.

CPS leaders have repeatedly said schools had to be closed because of a projected $1 billion budget deficit. Yet one of the reasons CPS is facing such a large deficit is its already-existing debt: In the upcoming fiscal year, the district’s payment on principal and interest is scheduled to go up by about $100 million to $475 million.

Some of the expenses that CPS is categorizing as capital spending also are a bit curious. For instance, CPS leaders want to spend $40 million on new textbooks aligned to the Common Core. However, textbooks are commonly considered operational expenses, says Bobby Otter, education and fiscal policy analyst with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

Miranda, however, says that textbooks are used over the course of several years and therefore can be considered a long-term investment.

Other spending

The supplemental budget also includes money to provide upgrades in schools that are part of CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s special initiatives. For example, high schools that will now either be wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate or have IB programs will receive upgrades to their buildings, such as new science labs with equipment.

In addition, 18 elementary schools that are being provided support through the Office of Strategic School Support Services will be renovated. Miranda says the office works with schools that are struggling and the spending is Byrd-Bennett’s attempt to counter the complaint that closing schools didn’t get the support needed to prevent being shut down.

As Byrd-Bennett has promised, the receiving schools will get building upgrades as needed, as well as air conditioning, libraries and iPads, all of which will be paid for with the supplement capital budget. The school getting the most improvements is Sumner, at $8.5 million. The school getting the least is DePriest, which was built in 2002.

Also, the supplemental budget includes tax increment financing money for an addition to Coonley and money to create a sports field for Jones College Prep, which will be two miles away on the field south of National Teachers Academy. 

5 comments

Edward Lewis wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Turnarounds

Some schools are poorly preparing students for college and the workforce. Some schools have been on academic probation for many years and rank among the system's most chronically under performing schools. Many of the students in turnarounds are not meeting stater testing standards. There is poor performance on standardized test and poor trend lines in student growth. Turning a school around will boost student achievement and change the academic culture within the school. It will show better leadership and an improved environment in the years ahead. The turnaround is about the students. They have been sitting in one place for too long; going nowhere. When schools have been on academic probation for so long; year after year; something has to be done. Turnarounds gives the students a new start; and they do not have to leave their nest; or go across gang territory.

William Thomas wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Every School Public School My School

The article about Dewey Academy of Fine Arts is padded. There has been such a poor repoire with parents and staff. The picture is painted to be a real picture of the Academy and Child Parent Center. That is not the real picture or environment of the school. The school has been on probation for many years. Test scores have not been meeting. A lot of parents have been leaving the school because of its poor performance and leadership. Too many teachers left the school in wrong ways. Ways that were not professional. A LSC that is not a functioning LSC. One that is a coverup for being a correct one. Parents are never notified of LSC meetings. Now that the school is in trouble; staff is begging for parents to be a part when they have never been allowed to be before now. The school is in disarray.

MD wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

What About Overcrowding?

I'd like to know when desperately OVERCROWDED schools like Gallistel will get some of this Capital money they have been waiting years for. Gallistel is servicing students among 3 campuses, including 2 catholic schools. There are classes in hallways, on stages, and in trailers behind the main building. Please don't ignore the schools that are not receiving schools!

Jeremy Peters wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

TIF's, debt-service, bond issues, just keep digging the hole!

Does anyone else see a pattern of raiding public coffers to pay "bankisters" and clout-heavy contractors?!? Where is reason, logic and accountability in CPS? I suppose there is absolute logic to this madness; follow the money. If the goal is to help those in greatest need and to alleviate the inequities in our society, then alll of this makes about as much sense as the disconnected and I'll-informed opinions of Edward Lewis's comment above. You sir have obviously no real contact with a neighborhood school or it's population. Where is an elected school board? I'd say let's run Rahm out of town on a rail, but none of our rail lines work anymore (save for the well maintained commuter lines that help carry the boodle from the city to the affluent and conservative suburbs). Maybe the loss of our manufacturing base has something to do with the health and well being of our struggling neighborhoods? Oops, there I go bringing reason and logic back into the discussion. Let me put my civic blinders back on. Ok BBB/Rahm, the corporate media, "venture philanthropists", etc. what should I think again? Oh yeah, closing 53 of the most struggling schools serving the most poverty stricken neighborhoods of color in the 1st world is going to improve conditions for students! If not, then at least poor kids will get an iPad to fuel our consumer economy. That ought to make things right. Lets register some voters!

Fact Checker wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Think twice about turnarounds

From the very pro-"reform" Tribune: "Most of AUSL turnarounds score below CPS averages on the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state benchmarks on standardized testing. Those schools that beat district averages have been accused of pushing out their lowest-performing students or those with discipline problems to artificially inflate their test scores."

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-06/news/ct-met-cps-turnaround...

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