Bret Harte #1

A student in Rebecca Harris’s pre-kindergarten class sits in the “waiting chair” in the hallway after returning from gym on Thursday, Jan. 14. Students entering the classroom at the beginning of the day or when returning from gym or a visit to the bathroom enter one at a time and wash their hands before going to their desks. The “waiting chair” is the penultimate waiting spot in the hallway.

With all but three area public schools experiencing enrollment declines over the pandemic year, Chicago Public Schools is pumping $44 million in equity grants and $32 million to hundreds of schools to offset the losses that would otherwise have happened because of the district’s enrollment-based funding formula.

In all, the district plans to put in $225 million on top of $3 billion in federal stimulus money, with the goal of having all public school students come back full-time this fall; the Chicago Teachers Union said in response that they support that goal but the terms must be agreed-to in bargaining.

CPS acknowledged significant enrollment loss in many schools across the pandemic and revised its funding methodology accordingly. If the decline into the 2021 academic year was greater than the average decline over the previous three years, then this year's budgetary enrollment count is based on the school's 2020 enrollment.

Fixes were also in place for lower-than-expected enrollment declines and enrollment declines following prior growth; if a school's enrollment grew, then the 2021 enrollment was used.

Hyde Park, Kenwood, and northern Woodlawn public schools’ 2021 enrollment, enrollment changes, budget and budgetary changes are as follows:

  • Ariel Community Academy, 1119 E. 46th St., 442 students (35 fewer), $4.70 million ($393,408 more)
  • Reavis Elementary, 834 E. 50th St., 238 students (29 fewer), $3.45 million ($288,435 more)
  • Shoesmith Elementary, 1330 E 50th St, 340 (27 fewer), $3.19 million ($199,831 more)
  • Kozminski Community Academy, 936 E. 54th St., 244 students (17 fewer), $2.86 million ($95,211 more)
  • Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., 483 students (22 more), $4,46 million ($270,039 more)
  • Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St., 285 (52 fewer), $3.18 million ($126,469 more)
  • Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., 613 students (83 fewer), $6.04 million ($154,398 more)
  • Carnegie Elementary School, 1414 E. 61st Place, 567 students (30 fewer), $5.33 million ($466,423 more)
  • Fiske Elementary School, 6020 S. Langley Ave., 381 students (31 fewer), $5.02 million ($163,416 more)
  • Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., 2,125 students (92 more), $17.23 million ($1.08 more)
  • Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., 770 students (23 more), $9.17 million ($1.13 million more)

All of the schools are getting at least $700,000 in line-itemed special education funding, with Ray School getting the most among the elementaries at more than $1.6 million and both of the high schools getting more than $2 million.

And all are getting at least some funding for bilingual education, with Shoesmith, Ray and Kenwood Academy getting tens of thousands of dollars.

CPS equity grants, Chalkbeat Chicago reports, used to be given to those schools with slipping enrollment, but are now being used in schools located in economically troubled areas. Last year, Reavis, Kozminski and Fiske got them; this year, those three did, alongside Ariel, Shoesmith, Murray, Bret Harte, Carnegie and Hyde Park High.

At an April 21 press conference, CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson stated the district's belief that student-based budgeting (SBB) is fair, because the right amount of money goes to schools based on the number of students who are there.

"But what you now see in this budget that isn't us sticking with what we've always done is much more specificity around what qualifies as a high-needs school, so the equity-opportunity index that our Equity Office introduced is much more specific than just looking at free and reduced lunch numbers," she said.

"That's feedback that we heard when we talked to people in communities, because they said 80% free and reduced lunch in this community is very different than 80% free and reduced lunch in another community. So it's much more holistic but also very specific."

Jackson said the schools with the greatest hardship are receiving equity grants of $100,000, with two tiers of grants below that. Kozminski, Bret Harte and Hyde Park High are receiving equity grants in the $80,000 range, with the rest receiving grants between $53,600 and $60,000.

"SBB is just the baseline," Jackson said. "We do have to use enrollment so that people are getting their proportionate share, but what I'm proud of in this budget is that we've gone above and beyond. When new dollars are introduced, we are allocating those dollars more than Chicago Public Schools has ever done in our history."

In an interview, Bret Harte Principal Charlie Bright said he was relieved and thankful to be able to bring back staff members while addressing other instructional needs throughout the building.

"Because our enrollment was down last year, part of it from families moving out of the city, I was worried that our budget would be cut considerably," he said. "So I'm very thankful for CPS, how they adjusted the budget and took into account schools that had stable attendance in years past, which for the past three years our attendance had been solid at Harte. Last year was an exception. I'm so glad we weren't penalized for that."

Bright is not in charge of payroll — CPS handles that. While the district has provided a great deal of computer hardware to enable remote and hybrid teaching and learning, Bright, under advice of his faculty, students and staff, and the Local School Council are in charge of allocating that $3.18 million, for school supplies, textbooks, software, professional development, new staff if circumstances require them, etc.

He also said that 70 to 80% of Bret Harte students receive a free or reduced-price lunch.

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