Much has already been said about the move of the Chicago Public School District to the “per-pupil” model of budgeting (and the Apples2Apples team is busy working to pull together data that is related to CPS, its finances, and so on.)

Raise Your Hand: Per Pupil Funding Factsheet 

Chicago Sun Times: Local School Councils Unite to Fight Cuts to School Budgets

WBEZ:  Chicago schools facing cuts under new funding system

Common Sense Coalition of LSCs: Budget Crisis Fact Sheet

Until we are able to post the open data for others to work with and understand, the same set of questions and visuals keep running through my head, especially in the wake of CPS Officials’ statements about “trying to keep budget cuts away from the classroom.”

What is the minimum threshold of resources that CPS is willing to declare that they will guarantee to fund for students?

If you made the list, what would be included–resources & staff–as the untouchable minimum in funding CPS classrooms/schools?

What would the CPS budget look like if we had a list of items, staff and resources that were guaranteed minimum resources which HAD to be funded first? And the Networks and Central Office would have to figure out how to find the revenue to fund their expenses with the remainder of the budget?


Perhaps CPS will state that they are starting from there, but I would like to see their decision-making, the thinking of folks at the highest levels. I believe it would begin a very valuable dialog with parents and teachers about priorities and costs of programs that aren’t always transparent to parents. For example, the role of the “Office of New Schools” after a year of closing schools. The cost and benefits of standardized testing.  And so on.

Yes, there will be disagreements about what should be a priority.  But at least there would be more authentic dialogue.** The kind of dialogue critical to parent engagement.

I imagine that the response to the question would be some language around “letting principals decide” and/or “well, we have cut the Central Office and Network expenses as far as they can be cut.”

However, I’m curious about this shift in thinking and what a different budget would look like if you truly put the students and their classrooms at the top of the list to be funded with all of the resources and staff to provide a truly solid educational experience in Chicago (or any other District).

How different would the list of minimum resources/staff made by Central Office be from the list made by parents/teachers? I wonder.


**Authentic dialogue: Shared inquiry…seeking the answer to a meaningful question together collaboratively. Not a panel of administrators listening to parents and teachers sum up their complaints/ideas/stories in two minutes each. Not bullet points on a Powerpoint slide. Not talking points, or marketing, or public relations strategies. Instead the focus is on you trying to understand the perspective and ideas of the OTHER person, not working to make THEM understand YOU or your ideas or your plans. It involves questioning, sharing doubt (especially self-doubt), good faith revelations about ALL agendas and goals, and the admission that you might not have all of the answers.  Yes, I have been involved in these types of organizational dialogues. No, I am not nuts even though imagining this type of exchange between parents and CPS’ Administration sounds almost unbelievably laughable at moment.

2 thoughts on “Student-Based Budgeting: A Different Approach to Engaging Parents

  1. Pingback: The FY14 Chicago Public School Budget | Apples 2 Apples in Chicago Public Schools

  2. Pingback: An Alternate Budget Plan from a CPS Parent | Apples 2 Apples in Chicago Public Schools

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