Proposed CPS Budget Increases Funding to Support Students During COVID-19 and Invests Equitably in Neighborhood School Modernization

FY21 Budget Includes More than $125 Million in Additional Funding in School Budgets and Invests $653 Million in Capital Investments for More Than 250 Schools

Budget Highlights

  • The district is allocating $75 million in resources to specifically address challenges created by COVID-19, which includes a variety of resources that support both remote learning and preparations for an in-person hybrid model, including computing devices, cleaning supplies, PPE and more.  
  • The district will invest $653 million for building improvements at more than 250 schools. Priority projects include:
    • Over $306 million to address facility needs and strengthen high-quality neighborhood schools throughout the city;
    • $202 million in building improvements to support modern science labs, Pre-K classrooms and spaces for new high-quality academic programs; and
    • The launch of a five-year commitment to invest $100 million in improved ADA accessibility.
  • To support high-quality instruction, the FY21 budget includes over $125 million in additional classroom investments. Key investments include:
    • $44 million in equity grants for high-needs schools are being provided;
    • A record high number of nurse, social worker and special education case manager positions; and
    • The largest single-year increase in special education funding.
  • Funding for School Resource Officers in FY21 will be reduced by $18 million, which is a cut of over 50 percent compared to last year’s budget
    • Actual SRO costs for the 2019-20 school year have also been reduced from budgeted levels by $15 million to remove charges associated with days in which SROs did not work in schools.
CHICAGO — To support students during this challenging time and continue investing in the long-term infrastructure of our school buildings, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today released its proposed $8.4 billion budget for FY2021 that promotes equity and prioritizes resources for the schools and students who need them most. The district’s budget proposal includes over $125 million in additional classroom investments, prioritizes more than $650 million in equitable facility investments throughout the city, and dedicates $75 million to support both remote learning as well as hybrid in-person learning in the event that health officials determine it can be done safely later in the school year. In addition to these investments, the district will reduce funding for School Resource Officers (SROs) by at least 50 percent this coming school year and use those resources to support the district’s investments in high-quality instruction.

“Even amidst the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, we continue to lead with our values of equity and inclusion, especially when it comes to our children and their educational future,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This budget represents the latest step in our mission of creating strategic, data-driven investments throughout our school communities with significant capital improvements and instructional support, as well as by developing innovative resources to enable remote learning throughout this school year as needed. Despite its historic challenges, this crisis stands as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to embrace the imperative of ensuring all our residents have the resources and supports they need to reach their potential.”

In line with the district’s five-year vision, Success Starts Here, equity serves as the foundation for the FY21 budget, which includes targeted investments to prioritize schools in high-needs communities. In addition to the $44 million in equity grants announced earlier this year, the capital budget released today was developed in partnership with the district’s Equity Office, which developed the district’s first Equity Index to inform where resources are most needed and  prioritize schools that serve majority low-income student populations.

“We approached the FY21 Budget with the goal of balancing the significant challenges posed by COVID-19 with the need to ensure long-term investments in academic programs and school buildings throughout the city,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “Our budget proposal  meets those challenges by increasing school funding, allocating resources to support students and families during the pandemic, and making crucial investments that will ensure CPS students can benefit from safe, modern school buildings for years to come. We will continue to invest in the resources and supports our students and staff need to be successful, and we appreciate the feedback and guidance from parents and community members who engaged with us in recent months as we worked to develop the strongest possible budget.”

The 2020-21 school year presents unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the district has been working for months to ensure students, staff and families are supported to the fullest extent possible.

In the final months of FY20, the district worked to distribute 128,000 computing devices, purchased 12,000 portable internet hotspots for students in temporary living situations, and provided 16.5 million free meals to families.

The FY21 budget builds on these investments by allocating $75 million for a variety of different needs related to both remote and hybrid learning. These funds, which will be allocated throughout the school year in response to evolving needs will cover additional technology purchases; personal protective equipment; cleaning supplies; free student meals; and contact tracing, among other potential needs. When students are learning remotely, these funds will help ensure every student has access to free meals and a computing device at home. And if hybrid learning is possible as early as the second quarter of the school year, these resources will ensure that the necessary health and safety resources are available in every school. The $75 million investment in the FY21 budget is separate from the $75 million Emergency Spending Authorization approved by the Board of Education in FY20 to cover expenses related to COVID-19 during the 2019-20 school year. The prior Emergency Spending Authorization is being funded by federal CARES Act funds that have already been signed into law.

In addition to these supports, the district is also working to bridge the digital divide through the groundbreaking Chicago Connected program, which will provide free high-speed internet access to approximately 100,000 CPS students. Outreach to eligible families is currently underway as part of this effort, which is one of the largest and longest-term efforts by any city to provide free, high-speed internet for students.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created new resource needs for our schools and students that the district is committed to meeting, it has also created unique funding challenges in the short term due largely to state funding and other economically sensitive revenues not meeting anticipated levels in FY21. Schools throughout the country are managing similar challenges, and both parties in Congress have committed to supplying schools with supplemental funding to mitigate these unique challenges. In FY21, the district’s budget assumes $343 million in additional federal funding to account for COVID-relating spending and revenue shortfalls, which is less than what the district would receive in the most conservative proposal being debated in Washington D.C. This funding includes both funds to support district expenses and a projected share for non-public schools, which the district is typically required to pass along in the event that additional funding is received. In the event that additional federal funding is received beyond the assumed $343 million, those funds would be used to guard against any additional expenses or revenue reductions in FY21 due to the evolving nature of the pandemic and also help mitigate any challenges that extend into FY22.

The $343 assumption for federal funding does not include CARES Act funding. The district is expected to receive $206 million in CARES Act funding, a portion of which ($78 million) will go toward FY20 expenditures, and $128 million of which will be in the FY21 budget.

While the district is fully focused on ensuring students, families and staff are supported in the year ahead, we know that students will eventually return to their school buildings, and we are committed to investing in the 21st-century learning environments that all students need to reach their potential.

First-District Equity Index to Prioritize Investments
In recent years, the district has focused on prioritizing investments that promote equitable access to high-quality learning environments, and this year the district took that approach even further. Earlier this year, the district hosted a series of five community meetings to gather feedback on how the district should prioritize investments. As part of these meetings, participants were asked to offer feedback on the district’s Equity Index, which is a new tool that the district used this year to help identify opportunity differences so that resources can be prioritized for the schools in greatest need. That feedback informed the structure of the index, which was central to all of our decision making for this year’s $653 million capital budget.

“By using a transparent Equity Index — that was shaped by community input — we are ensuring equity is at the forefront of our most significant decisions,” said CPS Chief Equity Officer Maurice Swinney. “The index helps us evaluate the impact each potential project would have on promoting equity, and our capital plan in FY21 was made stronger by this resource. We are grateful for the community members who helped make our Equity Index as strong as it can be, and we are firmly committed to ensuring this tool is used to help push our school district to consistently prioritize investment in the students who most need our support.”

Strengthening High-Quality Neighborhood Schools
In line with our commitment to equity, the district is allocating over $306 million in capital funding to address facility needs and strengthen high-quality neighborhood schools throughout the city. These critical projects — which include rebuilding roofs and mechanical infrastructure, stabilizing chimneys, and replacing fire alarms, among other projects — will help ensure that Chicago’s school buildings remain safe, modern learning environments for students for years to come. And in response to feedback collected through the district’s community engagement process earlier this year, restroom renovations have been prioritized in FY21 through a $9 million allocation. Over the next five years, CPS is committed to renovating at least one male, female and staff restroom in all district elementary schools.

$100 Million Investment Over Five Years to Promote Accessibility
In addition to the $306 million investment to address critical facility needs is $20 million to promote ADA accessibility at 36 schools. Over the next five years, CPS is committed to investing $100 million in total to promote accessibility as part of a multi-year goal to make the first floor of every CPS school building accessible to people with disabilities. The $20 million commitment in FY21 to promote accessibility follows $10.5 million in ADA upgrades in FY20, which was the first time in more than a decade that the district set aside funds separate from existing capital upgrades or new construction to address this critically important work.

Over $200 Million to Support High-Quality Academics and Enrichment
Every student in Chicago deserves access to a high-quality education in a 21st-century learning environment, and to help ensure our students receive the well-rounded education they need, CPS is investing $202 million to modernize classrooms throughout the city. These funds are being focused on the following priority areas for our schools:

  • Universal Pre-K Classrooms: To move the district closer to its goal of providing free, full-day Pre-K for four-year-olds, CPS is allocating $100 million to develop new Pre-K classrooms throughout the city.
  • Science Lab Modernization: In the final year of the district’s initiative to ensure all CPS high schools have a modern science lab, CPS is investing $30 million in FY21 to build labs in 31 district high schools. Between FY19 and FY21, CPS is investing $78 million to provide modern science labs at 75 district high schools.
  • Modern Spaces for New High-Quality Academic Programs: Earlier this year, CPS announced that 22 schools would receive new high-quality academic programs as part of the district’s annual program application process, in which school communities apply for new high-quality programs including International Baccalaureate (IB), STEM and Dual Language. In addition to the $18 million in programming that the district has committed to supporting over the next six years for these schools, the FY21 budget includes $22 million in capital funding to build and renovate spaces to support these new programs.
  • State-of-the-Art Sports Complex for the South and Near South Areas: The FY21 budget includes a $50 million investment in a new state-of-the-art athletic facility to serve students in the south and near south areas. CPS is finalizing a location for the facility and will work with the community to identify programmatic and sports offerings.  

Devices and Infrastructure for 21st-Century Learning
As the district works to provide devices and home internet access to support remote learning, we are also continuing our multi-year investment to modernize school technology and strengthen high-speed internet throughout the city. In FY21, the district is allocating $35 million to promote equity by increasing student-to-device ratios at the district’s highest-need schools and improving network infrastructure across the district.

Campus Investments to Support the Whole Child
In FY21, CPS is investing $27 million to develop new playgrounds, playlots and turf fields at over 25 schools across the city. These investments leverage external funding and will help ensure students can benefit from a well-rounded education that promotes healthy and active development, while providing a resource for the surrounding communities.

Needed Space for Growing Communities
Unlike in many prior years in which a significant portion of the available capital funding was devoted to new construction, the majority of available dollars in FY21 are being allocated to modernizing and repairing existing facilities. In FY21, the district is proposing to move forward with one priority project to address overcrowding by developing an annex for Sauganash elementary. Sauganash is a heavily overcrowded elementary school, and 99 percent of the students who attend the school live in the neighborhood boundary. Due to the school community’s growing population and high enrollment levels among neighborhood students, this investment is needed to ensure the school can support area families in the years to come.

In addition to the $653 million in guaranteed spending for capital projects, the FY21 budget includes an additional $50 million allocation from the State of Illinois to develop a new high school for the Near South community. CPS is committed to developing a new high school that meets the needs of the Near South community, and later this year, we will be launching a community engagement process to begin the process of considering key questions about the development of the school.


As part of the ongoing reforms to strengthen the SRO program, CPS and the City of Chicago are proposing a significant reduction in SRO funding for the 2020-21 school year. This reduction will allow the district to support the significant investments it is making in other areas while maintaining SRO support for the school communities that vote to remain in the program. Compared to the FY20 budget in which $33 million was budgeted for SRO support, the district is budgeting approximately $15 million for SRO funding in FY21 with the potential to spend significantly less based on the number of in-person school days that occur and the number of LSCs that vote to retain SROs.

The reduction in costs is due to a credit CPS will receive for non-in-person school days (at least $10.5 million reduction) as well as the full removal of expenses associated with the trained mobile patrol officers who respond to calls from schools for police support ($7.5 million reduction).

$7.5 Million Reduction Due to Removal of Mobile Officer Costs
During the 2019-20 school year, the SRO program included 48 mobile patrol officers who were available to support schools that did not have dedicated SROs in the event that they needed police support to respond to criminal activity at or near their school. Mobile officers provide public safety support to neighborhoods broadly, but also to CPS schools as needs arise.  Given these broader public safety responsibilities, CPS will no longer pay for these officers which will result in an approximately $7.5 million cost reduction for the district. Like all SROs, these mobile officers must complete both training from the National Association of School Resource Officers as well as CPS training that covers the district’s Student Code of Conduct, positive relationship building with youth, and restorative practices, among several other areas.

$10.5 Million Reduction Due to Reduced Number of Billing Dates
In FY21, the district is currently scheduled to be billed for no more than 138 days, which covers only the final three quarters of the school year when the district hopes to be able to implement hybrid learning, if public health officials determine it is safe to do so. The district will not be billed for summer months or scheduled days of non-attendance ($6 million reduction)  as well as the first quarter of the school year ($4.5 million reduction), which will be fully remote. In the event that in-person instruction cannot occur in the second, third or fourth quarter, the district’s bill will be further reduced to only charge CPS for the days in which school-based activities that require SRO support can occur.

Billing assumptions for FY21 are based on a scenario in which five of the schools that had SROs in 2019-20 do not vote to retain their SROs, which aligns with votes taken to this point. If additional schools choose to remove their SROs, the cost to the district will be reduced in accordance with the reduction in service.

$15 Million Cost Reduction for Prior School Year
In addition to the budget reduction in FY21, CPS and the City of Chicago have reconciled SRO costs from FY20 and determined that the cost to the district will be reduced from the budgeted $33 million to approximately $18 million. The $15 million reduction in FY20 costs is due to a true-up that removes any costs associated with the spring 2019 school days that could not be conducted in person as well as summer months. The district will be credited for this reduction when its FY21 payments are due.

Ongoing Reforms to Further Strengthen the SRO Program
The significant reduction in funding for SROs is the latest in a series of steps the district is taking to reform the SRO program and ensure it provides the schools that choose to participate in it with the strongest possible support.

As part of the new MOU signed with the Chicago Police Department last year, the district established new selection criteria for officers, clearer roles and responsibilities, comprehensive training aligned to restorative practices in schools, and a new complaint process to help ensure concerns are heard and addressed. These reforms are helping to ensure greater consistency among schools, and the district is committed to ensuring these reforms are implemented with fidelity.

Earlier this summer, CPS announced that the district is pursuing even stronger selection criteria that more critically evaluates prior discipline history. In the days ahead, we will be announcing additional policy reforms to the program and releasing a revised intergovernmental agreement with the Chicago Police Department, which will memorialize these commitments.

To promote high-quality instruction throughout the district, CPS is investing more than $125 million in additional academic investments FY21 and allocating additional funds to promote equity and prioritize the schools that need the greatest levels of support. School budgets for FY21 were informed by an extensive community effort during the past school year to identify opportunities to strengthen school funding.

$44 Million in Equity Grants for High-Needs Schools
For the past two years, CPS has allocated additional funding to promote equity and lift up the schools that need our support most. In FY21, $44 million in equity grants are being provided to 255 schools, which is an increase from the $31 million provided to 219 schools in FY20.

Schools can receive up to $700,000 in equity grants based on the needs of their school community, and the average grant received by the 255 recipients is $174,000. For the first time in FY21, the district is providing an additional $100,000 equity grant allocation to support positions dedicated to high-quality instruction at the more than 100 schools in the highest-need areas of the city, as identified by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Economic Hardship Index.

Record High Number of Nurses, Social Workers and Case Managers
As the district works toward its commitment to provide a nurse and social worker in every school by the 2023-24 school year, CPS is hiring additional nurses, social workers and special education case managers to increase support for students in all schools.

In FY21, CPS is budgeting for a total of 426 nurse, 536 school social worker, and 163.5 special education case manager positions, which will each be a record high for the district. The district is increasing staffing in these areas as aggressively as possible given national staffing shortages and the need to continue developing recruiting pipelines for our schools.

Largest-Ever Single Year Increase in Special Education Funding
In FY21, CPS is committing to the largest one-year budget increase in diverse learner spending on record.

Based on collaboration from advocates, parents, and the Illinois State Board of Education, CPS is instituting new, consistent methodology for allocating special education positions in a manner that promotes consistency and equity throughout the district. The district’s new methodology better ensures that schools have resources they need at the beginning of the year, which will reduce the need for mid-year appeals and better ensure equity throughout the district.

Prior to the introduction of the district’s FY21 budget proposal, the district held a series of both school funding and capital investment meetings to gather feedback from members of the school community. Now that the district has taken that feedback and developed a budget proposal for FY21, we are seeking feedback from communities on our plan.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all budget hearings will be conducted virtually this year. The district will be holding three capital hearings and two budget hearings at the following dates and times:

Budget Hearings:

  • Tuesday, August 18, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 19, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Capital Hearings:

  • Wednesday, August 19, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 20, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
  • Friday, August 21, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Information for families and stakeholders about how to join meetings will be shared at a later date on social media and through district communications. The final budget is expected to be presented to the Board for a vote at its August meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, August 26, 2020.

To view the full proposed FY21 budget, please visit

Chicago Public Schools serves 355,000 students in 638 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.