As CPS Enrollment Dips Again, New CEO Says “Tough Decisions” Await Us


Chicago public school enrollment is down for the 10th year in a row as the district grapples with the effects of the pandemic, and the new CEO to lead the system through the turmoil says he’s prepared for tough conversations about under-registered schools.

Pedro Martinez, on his third day as principal of schools in the city where he grew up, said one of his priorities will be addressing the budget and enrollment issues that have caused a vicious spiral of underfunded schools that lost students and subsequently more money, teachers and programs.

Martinez said preliminary data shows 327,000 students enrolled in CPS this year, about 14,000 fewer than last year and nearly 30,000 fewer than the year before the pandemic. The district has yet to release official enrollment figures. Martinez said these will be released soon.

Seeking to end the drop in enrollment of the past decade, Martinez is committed to involving families and communities to hear their ideas and concerns. But those “frank conversations” could lead to some tough choices, he said on Friday.

“I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past of closing schools to close schools,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times when asked about the massive school closures in the old. Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013. “It’s not my way of working.

“I want to talk about how we provide your child with accessible, high-quality programming, because that’s how your child will be successful. And that could mean tough decisions about what to do with some of our school buildings. “

The loss of students has been linked to the decline in Chicago’s general population over the years, primarily when black residents move elsewhere, citing a host of concerns including job loss, crime, and divestment in communities of color.

Martinez said community schools should be strengthened and that he and his CPS team would be going neighborhood by neighborhood to hear parents’ thoughts and “understand what’s going on.” This year’s enrollment declines were seen across various groups of students and different demographics, he said. The past year has been felt the hardest by preschool programs and the early years of elementary school.

In San Antonio, Martinez has used charter schools and other forms of privatization to create new options, tactics that public school advocates and teacher unions are fighting hard against because resources can be diverted from traditional schools. Martinez said during his introductory press conference last month that every district is different and that he wouldn’t necessarily repeat those decisions to the CPS.

The new CEO said the issues here are “complex” and the process of assessing any changes would take time. But if new schools were to be built, officials should take into account enrollment projections in five years and not “make decisions about what happens today.”

Martinez said he doesn’t think the district has enough money to support underutilized schools. According to the accounts of state officials, the CPS is only about two-thirds funded. It would need about $ 2 billion more per year, on top of its annual budget of about $ 7 billion to $ 8 billion, to fully fund all of its schools and programs. And while the federal government has provided the SCP with $ 1.9 billion in pandemic relief funds to be used over a three-year period, there is no indication that this type of funding will reach the district on a more permanent basis.

“We have amazing and amazing schools across our city,” Martinez said. “And so for us, we know we know how to deliver high quality programming to our kids. But not everyone has access to it.

“This is the frank conversation we need to have. But I think it has to be based on the question of how to ensure that there is always a minimum number of high quality schools in each neighborhood so that it does not appear that we are just going to remove all of them. schools in a neighborhood. I don’t think this is the right approach either. And I think we have enough kids to be able to do that. … I want to show [communities] the data. And then let’s talk about the long term solutions that we can have.

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