Principal of Kennedy High School questions CPS Budget Math for Charter and Public Schools

George Szkapiak, Principal of John F. Kennedy High School, looked at the CPS budget, compared it to his own school’s budget, and noticed that something wasn’t right.  Actually, he noticed that several things weren’t right.  He analyzed the budget and sent his finding to his school community (see his full letter below).  Among his findings and conclusions were the following:

  • The individual school budgets—as reported to the press—are inaccurate and misleading.
  • Despite an overall increase in enrollment, public school budgets decreased.
  • Charter school enrollment increased, but CPS gave them twice as much as the increases warranted.
  • The overall effect of these calculations leads to the conclusion that CPS’s massive borrowing is—in part—to divert increasingly more money to for-profit managed charter schools.
  • We must join together and fight for fair, equitable, and adequate funding for our schools and our students; and Wednesday’s board meeting might be a good start.

I would add to Mr. Szkapiak’s analysis a reminder that these budgets are based on CPS “projections” or estimates of student enrollment.  It appears that CPS systematically overestimated charter school attendance while underestimating public school attendance.  If this is correct, it means millions more in extra funding will flow toward charter schools for students that their enrollment does not justify.

In the past two years, CPS has allowed schools to keep these funds even if their actual enrollment does not meet their enrollment projections.  That is, if a school gets $5,000  per student and is projected to get 500 students, that school gets $2,500,000 in its budget at the beginning of the year.  If, in reality, that school only enrolls 400 students then their budget is supposed to be reduced to $2,000,000 twenty days after school begins.  In the past two years, CPS allowed schools to keep the additional funds.  CPS calls this “holding harmless” but has stated they will end the practice this year and take away funds after the 20th day of student attendance.  However, the systematic overestimation of charter school enrollment has led some to wonder if CPS will go back on its word and hold harmless once again as a way of ensuring charter schools get far more funding than their enrollment would merit.  Mr. Szkapiak’s analysis indicates that charter schools with get more funding than is justified whether they’re held harmless or not.  The systematic under estimation of public school enrollment will, conversely, ensure that public schools get no more than their enrollment would indicate.

Principal Szkapiak’s Letter

Hello Dear Kennedy HS Community Members,

A quick update regarding budget and the Wednesday, July 22, 2015 Board of Education Meeting. The budget released on Monday to the media, at least what was reported about Kennedy HS, was inaccurate. Attached is the budget for all schools. It states Kennedy HS had an increase of 46 students in SY 2016 enrollment thus increasing our Total Change from FY15 to +$405,549. That is completely false. On the attached FY2016 Budget Summary page, our enrollment did increase by 46 students increasing our budget by +$389,898. However when you look two sections lower under Diverse Learners Kennedy HS had a -$393,941 reduction in funding. That resulted in a -$3,943 reduction. The complexity and lack of transparency with which school budgets are disclosed and communicated to the public must improve. If I reported to the public that our school had a $405,549 increase in funding but actually had a $3,943 shortfall, I’d get fired and be accused of fraud.

It gets worse. I analyzed the entire school by school budget reported by the Board to the media. Public Schools which had increases in their enrollments, like Options and Alternative schools, had their budgets reduced. All while Charter Schools which definitely had increases in enrollment received more than double the amount of Student Based Budget allocations they were entitled to. Below the table illustrates what the budget released by the school board reveals:

School Type: Network: Change in Enrollment: Increases or Decreases based on Enrollment: Total Change from FY 15: Difference b/t what is owed to schools and what was actually allocated:
ALOP Options 291 $1,584,204 -$749,839 -$2,334,043
Alternative School Options 93 $506,292 -$574,390 -$1,080,682
Charter Charter 1972 $10,735,568 $23,614,543 $12,878,975
Charter – Alternative Charter 88 $479,072 $1,050,980 $571,908
Contract Contract 635 $3,456,940 $6,215,320 $2,758,380
Elementary All Networks & OS4 -2708 -$12,719,476 -$42,156,614 -$29,437,138
High Schools All Networks, OS4, Options, & AUSL -1183 -$6,440,252 -$18,421,466 -$11,981,214

Options schools had increases in enrollment of 384 students entitling them to +$2,090,496. However options schools were reduced by -$1,324,229. That is a -$3,414,725 differences between what those schools are owed and the amount they were reduced by. Charter schools on the other hand had increases in enrollment of 2,695 students entitling them to +$14,671,580. However, the rub is charter and contract schools received a +$30,880,843 increase. That amounts to +$16,209,263 more than they are entitled to, all while the City of Chicago is borrowing half a billion dollars to cover the Board of Education’s budget obligations and paying a ridiculous amount of interest due to the City’s and Board’s junk bond credit ratings.

The story gets worse when looking at public elementary and high school budgets. For the sake of time and space I’ll combine the two. Elementary schools and high schools had decreases in enrollment of -3,891 resulting in a combined -$19,159,728 budget reduction. However, -$60,578,080 was taken out of elementary and high school budgets. That amounts to -$41,418,352 more being taken than the decreases in enrollments required. I’d love for Mr. Irizarry, our resident math genius, to explain the radical mathematics used to calculate these figures. Simply unfair! Money the School Board doesn’t even have and is borrowing was removed from public schools to fund charter and contract schools. As a responsible and ethical public employee and your principal, I respect you enough to tell the truth and believe you have a right to know. I’ve attached the documents used to make my calculations and I welcome you to check my work.

In terms of the City of Chicago School Board Meeting this Wednesday, July 22, 2015, registration for speakers and observers closed within ten minutes after opening on Monday, July 13, 2015. I was lucky enough to register as a speaker. Some staff members were lucky enough to register as observers. However, if you plan on going to the meeting on Wednesday expect not to be allowed to get into the School Board Chambers because there is a capacity limit. Chicago Teachers Union is planning to be present outside CPS Central Office Headquarters. I encourage everyone to join CTU in a sign of solidarity to protest the unfair defunding of public schools and the inaccurate reporting to the public regarding school budgets. We need to join together and fight for our students and ourselves. Our students and we are equally worth investing in.

Yours in Education!


George Szkapiak, Principal

John F. Kennedy High School

Off:  773-535-2325 Ext. 25810

Mobile:  708-743-6647

Fax: 773-535-0176

You may access the documents used in the above analysis at the following link:

Contacts for Troy LaRaviere’s Blog


Twitter: @troylaraviere


21 thoughts on “Principal of Kennedy High School questions CPS Budget Math for Charter and Public Schools

  1. Thank you for researching the numbers, sharing with the public and taking a stand…a dangerous thing to do in CPS. I hope more principals will begin to do this. We teachers need our administrators, parents and our union all on the same page–doing our best to educate students.

  2. Another CPS principal questions the data and now Im beginning to see a trend!

  3. My school is down 49 students from last year and we are losing $490,000. That new math doesn’t add up for me either.

    Thank you for making your concerns public. It’s happening at neighborhood schools all across this city. It’s shameful.

  4. Thank you Mr.Szkapiak. I appreciate you sharing your school’s budget. I work at school on the south side and felt the budgets that were published were not real. It is good to see principals that stand up for what is fair and right.

  5. Thank you for pointing out these obvious disruptiencies in how CPS is justifying the budget… It’s our children who will suffer at the hands of these dishonest “leaders” who have way too much opportunity to abuse their power!! I hope and pray more administrators will speak up as we all need to come together to ensure our students have a chance!!

  6. Something doesn’t make sense between the budget summary Szkapiak posted and the CPS spreadsheet numbers. I can’t get the budget #s on the CPS HS summary page to sum to the the combined core & supplemental numbers in the spreadsheet. The CPS sheet sums to 10,980,639 but no combinations of numbers on the budget summary sums to that. It’s either too high or too low.

  7. According to tweets from Catalyst during a public meeting about the budget on Monday evening (7/20), it was clarified that each charter school was provided with funding for 1 principal, 1 clerk, and 1 counselor. Effective with SY2015 traditional public schools were allocated each of these positions as well. (Principal positions were allocated prior to SY2015; with the start of the student based budgeting structure, schools were allocated 1 clerk and 1 counselor position, in addition to the principal allocation). I’m not sure if this is the first time CPS funded these three positions for charters and I don’t agree with it; but, if so, it could partially explain the increase in funding.

  8. Thank you for speaking up. It is like this across the country. In NYC they play with the enrollment process numbers and then move the charters into your school. Teachers get excessed (lay off or become Absent Teacher Reserve } The New York Times never prints this.

  9. Thank you for always standing strong and keeping your community aware and informed, Mr. Szkapiak. I hope other southwest side principals take a stand with you and denounce the attacks on public education.

  10. Why isnt anyone else in the press talking about the overestimation of charter students by the district????

    1. They are! KELLY HS IS HOLDING A SW side Community meeting on Thursday. (11:00am) MANY PRINCIPALS WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE ALONG WITH SOME of OUR ELeCTEd Officials!
      THESE CHARTERS TRIED TO MAKE HOMES ON THE NORTH SIDE ,BUT THE COMMUNITIES STOOD TALL AGAINST THEM. Charters experienced increases in budgets whILE neighborhood school budgets experienced unfair decreases. NOW THESE SAME NEW CHARTERS WANT TO MOVE TO THE SOUTHWEST SIDE!

  11. Thank you Principal Szkapiak for your time and effort to “open the books” and tell the other side of the story. As a principal, I cannot understand why children aren’t first in CPS. Sometimes it seems like CPS is an employment agency for out of towners and their friends, who are not recruited for entry level positions. I hope we can come together to solve the funding issues and to implement equity in funding and accountability in all Chicago schools.

  12. I would say that this surprises me, but sadly it does not with CPS. Call me jaded, but will anything be done? Probably not

  13. Also, is anyone talking about the huge number of principals that have left CPS since March? I would love to know the final numbers. It seems like a mass exodus–little wonder why.

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