Divestment and Diversion
There has been a continuous stream of disinvestment from CPS and its students over the past decade. CPS has cut school funding repeatedly in order to redirect those funds to other priorities (e.g., Navy Pier, debt service, custodial privatization, wasteful and redundant school construction, subsidies for wealthy developers, etc.). Before the 2015-2016 school year, special education students had not been the direct targets of these divestment and diversion efforts.
Targeting Special Education
In 2015-2016, however, a pilot special education funding strategy was instituted and expanded district-wide this past 2016-2017 school year. This strategy drastically reduced special education funding across the district and created demands for additional resources. CPS officials responded to the demand for more resources with a budget appeals process. If you were a principal and the resources provided to your school were inadequate, you had the option of submitting an appeal.
Investigating the Appeals Process
CPAA conducted surveys and focus groups with principals and assistant principals, and collected appeals data from individual principals to produce a timeline of two schools’ appeals for special education funding. After CPAA made that timeline public at a Board of Education meeting in the spring of 2017, reporter Sarah Karp of WBEZ submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for special education appeals data. CPS handed over the data and Karp subsequently made it publicly available.
CPS failed to include demographic data for each school, so CPAA’s Special Education Policy Team added demographic data for each school listed, combined the amounts awarded to individual schools who submitted multiple appeals in order to treat each school as one appeal, and then conducted a race- and income-based analysis of that data. The results of that analysis are at the heart of our report.
Fighting the Right Battle
Unite and Conquer
While we must certainly notice and address the repulsive racial discrimination practiced by CPS officials, it is even more important for us to notice that no group received everything they needed. All too often–when we identify racial discrimination–we miss this critical point. The core purpose of racism is to divide and distract us from the cruel reality that while some of us are being fleeced more than others, we’re all being fleeced. We must not quarrel amongst ourselves over the scraps this administration throws to our children with one hand, while the other is doling out multimillion-dollar contracts, tax breaks, and interest payments to the self-serving, profit-driven corporate interests they serve. We must see our public destiny as families of Chicago and work to build a public school system and city that invests in the realization of the potential of every single child. This administration is draining schools and communities of vitality as it pits them against one another to vie for an artificially low pool of funds. Ultimately, this deprives students of all backgrounds of the critical resources they need to develop their full human potential.
Advocate for Individual Appeals
This year, CPS has rolled out yet another appeals process, the need for which is brought about by a base funding amount that is woefully inadequate. Parents and community members at schools should check to see if their school submitted an appeal. They should get the background behind the appeal, and then get the names and contact information of the decisions making officials at CPS in order to contact those officials, advocate for the approval of the appeal, and let them know you’re paying attention.
Launch a Movement to Challenge Inadequate Funding
As previously mentioned, the need for appeals funding is brought about by a base funding amount that is woefully inadequate. This funding deficiency is consciously and deliberately planned by CPS officials (details will be included in our upcoming report). If base funding were not so inadequate, there would be no need for a funding appeal. This means we must do far more than ask for a more fair appeals process. We must challenge the oppressively inadequate funding levels that created the need for the appeals in the first place. Organizations like Raise Your Hand and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council are among several organizations pushing CPS, City Hall, and the state to fund our schools adequately, but more is needed.
We hope that our report and pre-report essays on the flagrant and violent discrimination practiced against schools that serve African American and Hispanic children helps to create the public demand for our district to end its divestment and diversion tactics, generate adequate revenue for our city’s schools, and hold these officials accountable for the crimes they’ve committed against our city’s most vulnerable children.
Invest in our Work
At CPAA, we believe that if Chicago residents have a better understanding of how policies impact our children, they will be better prepared to push our elected officials to create better policies. Our small four-person staff is completely dedicated to this work. Please contribute to our efforts to raise public awareness and defend public education by clicking the donate button below. Thank you.
Troy LaRaviere, President
Chicago Principals and Administrators Association