Equity and School Funding in Chicago Public Schools

In 2017, the state of Illinois passed a new school funding formula designed to distribute resources based on individual district needs. That decision marked an important shift in the conversation about equity in school funding: For the first time we acknowledged that some students, schools and districts need more resources than others. It was an important step toward equity, but it also laid plain some long-hidden gaps. Specifically, the state’s new formula revealed that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has only 66% of the funding it needs to adequately serve the more than 355,000 students in its schools every day.

Using that formula, Chicago needs an additional $2 billion annually to ensure that all students have access to the high-quality teaching staff and materials essential to their academic success. These inadequate funding levels are often felt by principals who are responsible for managing their school budgets. “My school’s available funding” has been one of the top three areas of concern for principals on our annual Principal Engagement Survey for several years.

To make difficult choices in pursuit of equity, it will be essential to ground the conversation in facts and recognize constraints. This report offers a clear explanation of the financial basics and aims to show the complexity of the challenge. We hope it will support discussion among young people, educators, community members, families and other stakeholders, and that it will encourage action at the school, district and state levels.