Dollar vs. diversification: Johnson and Valas’ wildly different corrections to CPS


The next chapter for Chicago Public Schools depends on the outcome of the mayoral runoff on April 4th. These two candidates of his boast very strong ties to public education and diametrically opposed ideas about school.

Paul Vallas plans major changes to the CPS structure, giving principals and community leaders greater authority over spending and programming, and even allowing charter schools to take over campuses. He prioritized standardized testing and made it easy to keep student grades in check so that students would not graduate without the necessary reading and math skills.

“We should be running school districts, not school districts,” Valas said. “I really believe in radical decentralization.”

Brandon Johnson wants school district central offices to end per-student funding and guarantee a baseline for all school resources, including art teachers, social workers and librarians. Enrollment will play less of a role in whether schools can afford staff, he says, allowing all regions to provide quality education. He focused on coping with poverty and trauma.

“We need a complete overhaul of how CPS is funded to ensure that all public schools are adequately funded,” said Johnson. “That’s the norm, that’s the baseline. Our people deserve it.”

Advocates of public education are concerned that Vallas’ plan will create a tiered school system of winners and losers. I am wondering where I can find it.

The incoming mayor will have to grapple with the projected $600 million deficit, end the moratorium on school closures, and deal with new teachers. The first school board elections are just around the corner.


Vallas, 69, said his plan is based on changing how CPS spends the money it has rather than securing more.

Vallas, who served as CEO of CPS from 1995 to 2001, said that “money should follow students” as part of a market-driven approach to education in which funds are allocated per student and schools compete for their children. says. He argues that the arrangement ensures quality in all schools.

This is the model that has driven charter schools, public private schools, and selective admissions and magnet programs in traditional public schools. CPS has moved away from its funding approach, dubbed student-based budgeting, in recent years due to growing disparities over time. As students flocked to vocational schools and other schools, and populations dwindled in some areas, neighboring schools entered a cycle of losing enrollment and then funding. This meant that many buildings in the city were unable to accommodate basic personnel such as art classes, nurses, social workers and librarians.

Vallas also wants to create the city’s school voucher program, which will require CPS to spend millions of dollars in public funds to send students to private schools. State tax credit scholarship programs already exist to help children from low-income families attend private schools. Supported by Valas.

A key principle of Vallas’ educational platform is to impose decisions on principals and elected local school councils.

Turnout in LSC elections has been low for many years, and CPS is sometimes I had a hard time finding candidates. Run. Many LSCs don’t have enough members to function.

Daniel Anello, executive director of Kids First Chicago, a business-backed nonprofit, said local decision-making is a welcome change for the parents he supports and is the most effective way to serve their families. said that it would prove to be plausible. But that switch cannot be flipped overnight. Developing LSC expertise takes money and time.

Johnson, 47, said his approach is in line with recent changes by CPS officials.

He focused on strengthening traditional neighborhood schools to end the “Hunger Games scenario” where children “apply for access to quality schools.” , which includes a fully staffed special education department, librarians, art and music teachers, nurses and social workers, he said.

Some wonder if Prime Minister Johnson will do away with selective admissions and magnet schools altogether. The move could anger many middle-class families the city is trying to discourage from moving to the suburbs. Mr Johnson denies it.

The current CPS budget system often forces schools to choose positions they can afford. But given CPS’s impending budget woes, Johnson will struggle to fund current staffing levels.

test score

CPS has come a long way in school assessment and reform over the last 20 years. It eliminated the punitive system criticized by proponents, including Johnson.

The grading system takes into account test scores, academic progress, attendance and graduation rates, but does not take into account external student stressors such as poverty. Poor ratings often become a scarlet letter used to criticize underresourced schools, sometimes leading to their closure.

According to Johnson, qualitative measures such as classroom observation, game-based assessment, and online programs that track math and language assignments over time tell more about students than standardized test responses. It is showing.

The school board will vote in April on a new accountability system that adds social-emotional learning to considerations and “takes a more holistic approach to what education is and is.” About 20,000 students, parents, teachers, principals and advocates participated in the development of this system.

“[We’re] Todd-Breland said:

Vallas takes a radically different view of accountability, saying that test scores will once again be a barometer of how schools and students are judged. He points to the low scores of black and Latinx students as a reason for the reform, calling them “system failures.”

“Suspension or whatever. …shouldn’t we identify those schools and do something?” Valas asked. “Even if probation was a cruder term 25 or 30 years ago, there may be softer terms. But those schools should be identified and flagged for special intervention.” Isn’t it?

“I think parents want high standards. I think they want accountability,” says Vallas.

Although Anello said he believes measurement is “very important” to understand where educational disparities exist and doesn’t want candidates to drop the metric entirely. It is equally important to hold school districts accountable for providing resources.

“You can’t measure something and punish people who don’t reach their goals. “And I think historically accountability has been designed not to really consider or help struggling schools.”

Vallas also denounces so-called “social promotion”, which sends children to the next grade regardless of whether they are learning the necessary material so that they can be with children of the same age. Did.

“Social promotion has been a cancer that undermines the quality of public education,” said Vallas.

A school research consortium at the University of Chicago found that retaining children because of low test scores did more harm than good for black and Latinx students. It has also been shown to increase the likelihood of student dropout.


Behind these plans is the fact that CPS only has 75% of the state and local funding it needs to adequately serve students, leaving CPS about $1.4 billion short, according to state officials. doing. The calculation takes into account poverty rates and other factors that influence a child’s educational experience.

Add to that the impending loss of federal pandemic relief funding for the CPS in 2025, leaving more than $600 million in deficit in 2025, officials said. Leader of CPSthe school board, the Chicago Teachers Union, and finance experts say plans to address the district’s problems must start with more funding.

“We have a lot of very difficult decisions about capacity, registration and accountability awaiting us. All of these require resources. It’s a really, really hard request when you’re asking for something,” said Anello.

A civil coalition that analyzes CPS’s budget is critical of CPS’s increase in staff while student numbers are declining.

“It is very important that CPS and all its stakeholders work together to develop some plan to close that gap before it turns into a crisis. Plans should include cuts to show taxpayers that they are

Mr Varas said the district’s central office was bloated. He claims CPS has enough money to serve its students, and the school system costs him $30,000 per student.

That’s only partially true. His CPS budget for this year is $9.4 billion. In fact, only 69% of its budget ($6.5 billion) directly funds schools. But of the rest, $1 billion is being funded for pensions. $762 million paid off debt. and $645 million for building and renovation costs. All costs are covered by the state and are not a burden to the rest of Illinois. A total of $400 million has been funded for central and regional offices, representing 4% of the overall budget.

Johnson talked about pursuing efficiencies, but argued states need to step up to provide more funding. For decades, every school leader has promised to increase state spending on his CPS, usually unsuccessfully. Johnson said a strong Democratic majority in the Illinois legislature and a state tax surplus could make it easier this time.

Wetmore said school districts need to have a Plan B if the state doesn’t deliver.

Nader Issa teaches the Chicago Sun-Times. Sarah Karp is responsible for education at WBEZ. Lauren FitzPatrick contributed to this story.


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Written by Natalia Chi

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