Budget: Could Central Office Be Cut 40 Percent?

9c2ad92c-eed8-447a-a28f-d40e8e83f717Teacher Sophia Du Brul writes that it's central office spending -- all $1.6 billion a year of it -- that is the real problem, not teacher salaries or school-level spending (CPS teachers really getting 'the shaft').  She says that cutting just 40 percent of that spending, which makes up 43 percent of the CPS budget, would fix the $700 million budget hole.  But is that right, and if so what programs would you cut that would be big enough to make a real difference?


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  • I have no idea where Sophia du Brul got the figure that CPS in FY 2011 was spending $1.6 billion on Central and Area offices. The CPS budget in FY 2011 was based on all funds was about $6.46 billion (page 39 FY 2011 budget). If you do not have the budget you can down load it at http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Financial_information/Pages/FYBudget2011.aspx

    Here are the non-school based appropriations for all funds listed in the FY 2011 budget:

    Executive and Board services $65,118,906 (page 46 FY 2011 budget)
    Administration Education (including area offices Chief Ed officer,
    Academic Enhancement, Alternative schools, etc.) $120,941,651 (page 47 FY 2011 budget)

    Operations $17,505,372 (page 47 FY 2011 budget)

    Procurements and contracts $4,611,402 (page 47 FY 2011 budget)

    School fiscal services $51,382,113 (page 48 FY 2011 budget)

    Debt Services $477,382,062 (page 48 FY 2011 budget)

    total $736,941,506

    The costs for each area office and each administrative unit in the central office can be seen by going to http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Financial_information/Pages/FYBudget2011.aspx
    and opening a pdf file titled "Area and Central Office units, all funds."

    Now there are billions more ($4,917,025,712 CPS FY 2011 budget page 49), spent on various citywide and school based programs most of which goes down to schools, a small amount of which does not. Even some of the funds above actually go to schools including operations.

    Ms. du Brul also claims CPS spends 40% more than suburban school districts on administration. I do not know where she got this information but ISBE has determined that CPS spends 48.5% of its budget on "instruction" whereas the average school district in Illinois spends only 46.1% of its budget on "instruction" (see CPS 2010 report card page 2). If one looks at Naperville CUSD 203 for instance we can see ISBE estimates that district spends 54.5% of its budget on "instruction" and only 2.1% on general administration whereas CPS spends on average 2.5% of its budget on general administration (see Naperville CUSD 203 report card page 2). I can see nothing in ISBE data sets to support Ms. du Brul's position on the much lower administrative costs for suburban districts as compared to CPS.

    I know what I have written sounds like an apology for CPS and can get some teachers upset and possibly parents upset too. I believe there are problems with CPS budget deficit estimates but I do not believe CPS is spending anywhere near what is being claimed by Ms. du Brul on administration. Moreover, I believe that some administrative functions for CPS have been cut to shreds and are basically dysfunctional already. That does not mean CPS could not meet its obligations to pay teachers their raises, CPS clearly made choices based on what it believes are appropriate allocation of funds to educate the students of Chicago and that did not include paying the raise. CPS continues to open new schools, it is continuing with some non-emergency capital expenditures, and even continuing to fund the culture of calm program.

    As I have said many, many times I believe the CTU should have months ago attempted to convert its scheduled raises for FY 2011 into loans to CPS, but the time for such offers seems now to be gone. But claims of incredible administrative expenditures by CPS only serve to lessen the creditability of teachers and parents who question CPS budget deficit estimates and revenue assumptions.

    Rod Estvan

  • Great point Anon! I had to go to a training at Elizabeth Street, and the department of specialized services had "specialized" m&m's they were giving away as motivators/rewards to staff. First of all, we are educated adults, so we did not need the motivators/rewards. More importantly, tax payers should not have to pay for this crap!

  • How do we check

    Lost in this blame game is one of the real problems with CPS. That is non teaching
    personal being charged to a schools budget. E very entity within the Board has a unit
    number to which are assigned position numbers each employee has one. The trouble is that this position number is almost impossible to trace. More and more personal are being
    paid as non-professional while they work as co-coordinators ,consultants, coaches
    and a mind boggling array of useless tasks far away from the classroom. Yet they are
    paid from a school budget , even while they are not present.

  • I noticed that several posters raised the question of special education due process costs and the money this might be costing CPS. I hate to tell you all this, but it largely does not matter. CPS like all school districts in Illinois has what is called a tort fund. Under state law the tort fund has unlimited taxing ability and it is designed to pay judgements against the school district. So these cases have very limited impact on the operating budget of CPS.

    If as part of a settlement a child is placed in a private special education facility that cost is picked up by the CPS special education state funded block grant. Over the last few years the number of students placed in these private schools has been flat. In order for a family to go to due process they need either money for a lawyer or to have their case picked up for free by an advocacy organization. Also CPS can settle cases prior to hearings.

    I will be honest I hear from numerous parents who want to litigate against CPS over there disabled children each year, when I look closely at the issues I determine that less than 40% have a strong case given how special education laws are written and understood by the courts. Currently, I believe I have only four CPS cases I have been involved with that are in the hands of private lawyers and that may go to hearings. I would add that not all private special education schools are created equal and many children placed in these settings do not show improvement.

    Rod Estvan

  • chicago current's geoff dougherty says that CO waste is no reason to give teachers a raise that's double inflation


  • Are we talking about Aurora East USD 131 or Aurora West USD 129? Because East USD 131 has a 67.2% poverty rate and West USD 129 has a 44.9% and a much lower rate of limited English proficent students. The key difference between CPS and either of these districts are the number of schools under Federal School Improvement Status. USD 129 has 7 such schools, USD 131 has 16, and CPS has 397 schools in this status.

    School districts in their district improvement plans are required by the state to focus their Improvement to Instructional Services dollars towards schools in Federal School Improvement Status not schools that are doing great. But some money does go to all schools. Hence CPS has vastly more schools in improvement status compared to either of the Aurora districts and must direct these funds to more schools. Also the funding for Improvement to Instructional Services dollars come in part from federal funds and CPS because it is in "academic" status must devote a percentage of these funds to this line. Because CPS recieves so many more millions of dollars from several different federal lines that percentage adds up to a lot more money.

    Sophia the rules relating to this line are complex and I am not an expert on them. But you can read about this issue by going to



    At any rate the difference between CPS and either of the Aurora districts seems logical to me and not some type of nightmare of waste. I am also not saying that how these dollars are spent in either of the Aurora districts or in Chicago may not be a waste, I have not investigated that issue in the least. But on a budget level these differences do not seem to provide the smoking gun you are looking for.

    I recommend you slow down and learn the basics of educational finance and budgeting. One place to start is a text book I used when I taught an education law for educators getting their administrative certificates. Chapter 3 of EDUCATION LAW
    Third Edition by Michael Imber and Tyll van Geel covers some of the basics. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives published by Committee on Education Finance of the National Research Council is also useful. I wrote on CPS budget history in my Masters thesis which was about the creation of the Chicago School Finance Authority which is somewhere in the stacks at Saint Xavier University that covers CPS budget history going back as I recall to the 1960s. When I began working on that thesis I completely did not understand how the various "funds" "lines" positions, federal and state expenditure rules in budgets worked. What I thought would be a great thesis took me a full year to do and understanding the basics took several months.

    Rod Estvan

  • First of all Sophia which Aurora school district are you talking about, Aurora East USD 131 or Aurora West USD 129? You never answered that question. They are very different districts you know. That would seem to be a very strait forward question to be answered.

    Second, you do not seem to grasp the concept of NCLB as it relates to professional development and Federal School Improvement Status. CPS does not have full legal control over how federal dollars are spent when it is need of improvement. The longer the district is in this status the less control over these funds the district has. CPS has been in corrective action status for 4 years and this has real implications over how federal dollars used for professional development.

    I am not arguing with you about the quality of professional developement provided with these dollars. You keep dividing totals into all students and coming up with a ratio, well these dollars are not spent equally by districts they are focused more on teachers in failing schools. CPS has as I have pointed out has many, many more failing schools than either Aurora district.

    CPS has for better or worse also closed schools down and retrained entire new cores of teachers and some of these funds are used for that. I have no idea if either Aurora district has ever closed down and reorgnized a school using authority under NCLB but that costs alot. Again this type of allocation may not be a good thing at all, but under both state and federal law it is legal.

    You ask if we can measure the effectiveness of CPS spending for professional developement, there are some metrics for federal improvement funds that CPS has to report and I do not know the results of those measurements. You could FOIA these reports if you wanted to and find out instead of just raising questions, that would be very useful.

    I do not think we are having a real dialog here. You seem convinced that you method of assessment of CPS spending is correct. That is fine, but your method is not consistent with numerous rules that dictate control over some state and federal funds. The scope of your claims against CPS are vast and because of the number of claims you are making you are not focusing on details. This lessens your effectiveness.

    Kurt Hilgendorf is a CPS teacher just like you who is looking closely at CPS budget issues. He spoke at the last Board meeting on problems with the CPS budget estimates, he was highly effective because he was focused on specific narrow issues that are worth millions of dollars. He examines each issue carefully and is careful in his claims. Go narrow and go slow, understand all the rules related to the budget line you are examining. Talk to CPS staff that implement the line and really know every aspect of that narrow issue.

    Rod Estvan

  • what they need to do is get all this staff out to the schools where kids are ! There are way too many layers in OSES !!!! and many of these "layers" have no state certification! unbelievable but true! check it out for yourself ... you can look up anyone on the ISBE webiste.....try looking up all of the SSAs...hmmm interesting! and how about all of the mulitple staff that they hired from ISBE this year! NONE have a cerifitication (the ISBE folks that were hired by OSES). Really? terrrible and they get paid almost 100,000 each! who monitors this? how is this occuring? and why do we need all the layers!

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