In the wake of The Chicago Reader’s article about Wendy Katten and Andrea Zopp’s exchange about the budget on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight”, I’ve been getting emails from friends and colleagues asking me two questions:
1) Are you the “Cool Cat” that Ben is referring to in the article?
No. But I’m very excited to see parents/journalists digging into the data.
2) Who was correct on Monday? Wendy or Andrea?
That is a little more complicated to answer.
I’ve avoided drawing any conclusions about the budget yet. I’ve been trying to unplug a bit this past month (it’s been a long year of data-crunching) and because it is not at all straightforward or easy to draw very good conclusions based on the information that CPS has provided.
Because the data is:
1) Not tagged clearly. Individual school types—charter, neighborhood, magnet, magnet cluster, SEES/SEHS, etc–are difficult to identify unless you are very, very familiar with the updated names of each school in the District.
2) Projected enrollment data for each school is not easy to pull into one spreadsheet for each individual school. In the FY14 Budget Appendices, it is only referred to as a District aggregate. In the Oracle Interactive Dashboard, you have to drill down into each individual school and manually transfer the projected enrollment number; you don’t know what they are basing the number on; and if the actual enrollment number (see 10th Day rule) is different, the budget will change accordingly.
3) The funding formulas are complex and there is no visibility into the number of special “subgroups” per school–such as specific categories of special education students–that may affect the amount of overall budget dollars each school receives.
4) The final numbers that the CPS Board of Education were voting on were not released until AFTER the vote, And so, I didn’t have the final numbers until after the vote. Except for principals at each school, and a handful of folks at Central Office, none of us had them.
5) There was a lot of cost-shifting that occurred with this budget that really hurt some schools, but it isn’t yet clear to me how to easily calculate that in per school dollars especially between last year and this year.
6) Although they are funded via taxpayer money, charter schools in CPS are not required to give any detail about their expenditures in different categories, their projected enrollment, etc. in the same way that non-charters have to. Everything is tossed into some very large buckets of funds and expenses, without detail. This makes it difficult to compare charters to non-charters (which defeats the purpose of a charter school, frankly, but I digress.) So we cannot easily compare budgets between school types.
To be able to adequately compare whether any individual school or type of school was a winner or loser in this budget I would have to know:
How much money does each principal have in front of them to use for the education of the number of students in their building compared to the money that they had last year ASSUMING THAT THE TYPE AND NUMBER OF STUDENTS ARE THE SAME AS LAST YEAR.
That is a very tough assumption to make given this past year’s school actions.
So let’s drill down a little bit more. To adequately compare, I would need to know how much money each principal has per pupil for general education expenses vs. discretionary income vs. special education and so on. Divided by the number of students in that school that benefit from those budget lines. (The past format of school segment reports display this in a more straightforward way , but those reports are embedded in PDFs, thus difficult to extra and use.)
You can see where I’m going with this. It’s going to take a little time and elbow grease to adequately crunch these updated numbers.
So, what do we know? DId Wendy Katten have a point? Did Andrea Zopp?
I’ll do my best with a scan of the data. On to Part II.