CPS school funding workshops are intended to “provide you with an overview of CPS’ current funding methodologies and an update on capital projects and other aspects of the FY2020 budget.” But in order to be fully prepared, our members and allies need to be fully informed on the effect student based-budgeting and the SQRP ratings system have on our district.
What’s the matter with SBB?
Student-Based Budgeting (SBB) allocates money to individual schools based on how many students each school manages to en-roll in a given year. Picture every student with a dollar amount floating over their head, and now imagine every school competing to enroll that student so the school can add that student’s dollars to its budget.
According to SBB boosters, this approach ensures equal spending per student and gives schools more autonomy over the budgeting process. But in reality, this approach has had a disastrous impact, especially on predominantly Black schools on the south and west sides of Chicago.
Schools that are already struggling with inadequate resources and/or serve a large number of students coming from marginalized communities are hit hard by SBB funding, because every time a student leaves the school, the school has even fewer resources to accommodate the students who remain.
On the other hand, the schools that are considered “desirable” have an incentive to pack in as many students as possible, so they can add dollars to their budgets—but without regard to overcrowded classrooms and other sub-optimal learning outcomes.
What’s the matter with SQRP?
The School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) is a CPS rating system that is supposed to provide parents with information about their child’s school. SQRP, however, fails to live up to its promise. SQRP relies heavily on standardized test scores, which are themselves riddled with bias. As a result, schools with white middle-class and upper-class students tend to receive high ratings. These schools also tend to hire and retain white teachers. Meanwhile, segregated schools that serve large numbers of low income students tend to receive lower ratings. So SQRP ratings tell us what we’ve already known for 50 years: better resourced schools do better on tests than schools with inadequate resources.
Such a rating system does not reflect what makes a good school, and it creates all kinds of negative incentives to narrow curricula and “teach to the test”, deny students broad and rich educational experiences, and close schools based on unhelpful performance measures.
The Chicago Teachers Union proposes that CPS abolish SQRP and reject any rating system that evaluates schools based on test scores, attendance, or other measures that are to a large degree measures of the socioeconomic level of the students rather than the quality of the school. Instead, the CTU proposes that CPS assess schools based on the variety of programs offered at the school and according to the day-to-day needs of the students and staff.