I believe that an organization’s budget is so much more than numbers on a screen. Budgets tell a story. They tell the story of what an organization cares about; what they’re prioritizing; and over time, how they plan to grow and evolve. Ask me what’s important to an organization and I’ll tell you by looking at their budget.
For this reason, I want to provide more visibility into CICS’ budget and our process for determining it each year. From how we receive our funding to how we foster autonomy amongst our school operators over budget decisions to how we plan for uncertain times, I want to ‘open the books’ so that our school teams understand all that goes into important budgeting decisions.
I also want to answer your questions. Transparency is important to build trust as we work towards our common mission.
In this post, I’ll be addressing a question I’ve heard from educators at CICS regarding the federal COVID-19 relief packages.
I’ve heard that K-12 schools will be getting billions of dollars in federal aid as a result of the COVID-19 relief packages. How will this impact CICS’s budget for next year?
There have been three COVID-19 relief packages passed since the start of the pandemic: the CARES Act passed in April 2020; the Coronavirus Relief Bill passed in December 2020; and the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March 2021. Each one has had money earmarked for K-12 education.
Before we get into how this funding helps CICS schools, it’s important to understand how CICS receives its funding. We receive the majority of our funds via Chicago Public Schools, which allocates public funding on a per pupil basis. For special funding like the COVID-19 relief funds, the federal government allocates this money to the states and states distribute the funds to districts. CPS then decides how they want to allocate and spend that money. Charter school advocates must always negotiate to ensure that charter school students receive an equitable share of those funds.
From the CARES Act passed in April 2020, CICS received approximately $263 per pupil from CPS, which we allocated directly to our school operators and direct-operated campuses. All of our campuses used this funding to prepare their school buildings for in-person support during the ongoing pandemic, including purchasing sanitation equipment, personal protection equipment and air filters.
The COVID-19 Relief Bill passed in December 2020 includes significantly more funding and CPS is using that federal money to offset the decrease in state revenue to schools for the 2021-2022 school year. After much negotiation and advocacy on behalf of charters, we expect to receive a 3% increase in our per pupil rate for next year. Similar to the previous relief funding, CICS will pass through that additional funding directly to our school operators and direct-operated campuses to use the money where it is needed most based on their school community. For example, I know that some campuses intend to allocate a portion of this funding to SEL support. It is important to note that at our campuses where we have seen declining enrollment, this 3% increase will likely offset the lower revenue as a result of serving fewer students. , so we may not see increased spending overall at the school.
Finally, the most recent relief package passed in March 2021 has yet to be allocated, but CPS has indicated that they intend to spread that relief funding over the next three years to offset anticipated budget decreases from the state. We can share more about this funding as we know more next year.
The federal investment in K-12 education over the last 14 months is significant and unprecedented, and comes at a time when schools and districts needed additional support to serve students. But it is my hope that this increased investment in our schools becomes a permanent one because I believe there is no better way to support our country’s future than by investing in our children.