Chicago, IL

Chicago Public Schools $3B Immediately, $14.4B Total to Renovate, Modernize All Schools in System

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

CPS needs $3B for immediate critical needs of school buildings which are on average 83 years old, in serious disrepair; already faces $628M structural operating deficit
Gale School located at 1631 W Jonquil Terrace on Chicago's North Side showing disrepair, lead pain flaking off ceilings.Photo bySixth Ward [CC BY-SA 3.0]

A recent report has shed light on the substantial financial burden facing Chicago Public Schools (CPS), which need an estimated $14.4 billion for emergency building repairs and a comprehensive modernization effort. This revelation comes amid concerns about the deteriorating condition of CPS facilities, many of which are plagued by issues such as lead paint, leaky ceilings, and crumbling infrastructure.

The comprehensive 192-page analysis, released by CPS officials, paints a concerning picture of the state of the city's public school buildings. With an average age of 83 years, some of these structures are in serious disrepair, posing safety hazards for students and staff.

The report underscores the urgent need for addressing immediate critical needs, which total over $3 billion, that have gone unaddressed. Furthermore, achieving a complete modernization of all 522 CPS school buildings would require substantial additional funding to avoid incurring long-term debt burdens.

The financial challenge facing CPS is exacerbated by a projected structural operating deficit of $628 million in 2025, a concern that the Board of Education has been voicing for over a year. The funding disparities faced by CPS in comparison to other Illinois districts have made it difficult for Chicago to cover both ongoing school operations and necessary upgrades.

One notable obstacle is Chicago's inability to propose referendums for temporary tax increases, a tool that other municipalities use for school renovations. Consequently, CPS must rely on taking on debt or reallocating funds from its operating budget, affecting vital school programs.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez advocates for a long-term solution that would not only save money but also create sustainable, eco-friendly schools. He emphasizes the importance of conveying to students that their education and future are valued.

The report reveals that a significant proportion of CPS buildings are underutilized, with 293 out of 522 falling into this category. While some have the appropriate number of students, others face overcrowding issues.

Furthermore, despite recent stabilization in enrollment due to an influx of immigrants and refugees, CPS predicts no growth in enrollment for the next three years, with projections suggesting a potential decline to 299,000 students by 2026.

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Chicago, IL

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