The Urgent Need for CPS Funding Transparency

LSC chair at Bronzeville Classical Elementary Stephen Mitchell calls for CPS budget transparency in a letter to the Chicago Tribune editor.

By Stephen Mitchell | May 7, 2024 |

Recent developments with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) regarding their new funding formula and its impact on selective enrollment and magnet schools demonstrate a concerning shift away from established transparency norms. Historically, CPS has shown a commitment to transparency by providing detailed school-by-school budgets. However, the recent lack of openness, particularly concerning its new funding approach, raises significant concerns.

Transparency is crucial in maintaining trust between CPS and its stakeholders. The current opacity from the CPS administration and board undermines this trust. Decisions made unilaterally, such as abrupt changes to school funding and the rushed implementation of goals for a five-year strategic plan, suggest a governance approach that excludes stakeholder input.

Moreover, the refusal to release specific school budgets and details of the formula used by CPS to calculate the Opportunity Index assigned to each school is troubling. This secrecy seems a deliberate effort to prevent school communities from understanding and potentially contesting these changes. If the decisions are justifiable, why withhold the details?

The consequences of these actions are evident at Bronzeville Classical, where I serve as the Local School Council (LSC) Chair. As a parent, I have seen the positive impact of this school, which has thrived due to years of community advocacy and commitment. Since its establishment in 2018 by the Bronzeville Community Action Council, Alderman Dowell, and dedicated residents, Bronzeville Classical has risen to become the #6 Elementary School in Chicago, according to U.S. News. Our teachers have also received prestigious awards, underscoring the high quality of education provided.

However, recent budget cuts threaten to undermine these achievements. Selective enrollment and magnet schools face reductions under the new funding formula, jeopardizing programs essential to their unique character and success.

For the wellbeing of our public school system, it is imperative that the CPS board and administration prioritize genuine community engagement. This starts with transparency, particularly regarding significant financial decisions. The sooner this shift occurs, the better Chicago students will be equipped to succeed.

We must demand accountability and transparency from those in power. The future of our students depends on it.

Stephen Mitchell
Chair - Local School Council, Bronzeville Classical School
Member - CPS Local School Council Advisory Board
Member - Coalition for Authentic Community Engagement

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