Budget unknowns finally addressed


By Esther Babawande, Opinion Editor / Reporter

    Despite city-wide cuts to per pupil spending, Lane’s administration maintains that budget impact on class sizes, program cuts, and faculty will be minimal.

   According to the Chicago Tribune, state aid and funding efforts have brought what was once a $1 billion deficit down to $300 million. Despite this accomplishment, many people in the Lane community waited with bated breath to hear from the administration about the 2016-2017 school budget.

   “We were able to keep class sizes solid and we were able to get all of the instructional materials we need for the school year,” Ms. Hanly, Assistant Principal, said. “We feel comfortable with the plan we have at the moment.  If there is a drop in enrollment, that may change. The good news is, the students should not feel that impact too much.”

   After CPS issued the budget to school administrators in July, the tedious process to figure where funds would be going began.

   “The most important thing is always to make sure that we have teachers for the classrooms,” Hanly said.  “We then look at what we have spent in the past and figure out where we can trim. [After that] we present this to the LSC for their approval.”

   A point in the budget that primarily concerns students is per pupil spending. The per pupil funding at Lane was $5,578 last year, and now it is $5,068.

   “That is money lost if you add that by 4,000-plus students,” said LSC student representative Colman Adams, Div. 778.

   Lane also receives $827 for each student who qualifies for free or reduced lunch. According to LSC budget documents, last year, 57.5 percent of Lane students qualified for these SGSA (Supplemental General Student Aid) funds. Now, only 49 percent of students do. The school used to receive $2.3 million from the SGSA allocation fund, but now the school is only getting around $2 million, a loss of about $300,000.

   Despite the fact that that is a major loss in per pupil funding, the administration and LSC plan to work diligently to make sure the education of all Lane students will not be affected.

   The budget is ever-changing and reacts to the various dynamics of every school; in this case the defining dynamic is attendance.

   “The budget is a fluid document. CPS provided our budget based on their enrollment projection,” Hanly said. “If our enrollment does not match that on the 10th day and 20th day of school, there will be a loss in funds. If that is the case, there may be some cuts, but at this point, we cannot say for sure. We need every student to show up on the first day.”

   As of now, Lane appears to have $38,151 more than last year, resulting in a total budget for the 2016-2017 school year of $25,210,314.

   To fully understand what DNAinfo has called CPS’s “obscuring millions in cuts,” students should take into account that funding for special education services, teachers, and paraprofessionals were not factors in last year’s budget. According to LSC budget documents, that is $1.6 million that Lane now must pay for out of its own budget.

    According to Lane’s administration, they were responsible for budgeting several Diverse Learner positions as part of the school budget. This year, CPS changed the way special education is funded, making special education, which used to be funded for by CPS’ central office, budgeted as part of the entire school fund.

   According to CPS, 122 more special education teaching positions and 25 more paraprofessional positions were allocated for in district-run schools, following a thorough review of diverse learner programs across the district. This is to ensure that every student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP)’s needs are met.

   Lane has “funded for all of its students’ needs for more than a century,” according to Mrs. Thompson, Assistant Principal. The school budget isn’t the only way these needs are met. Lane does not rely on the budget CPS provides alone for funding. Hanly pointed out multiple ways Lane receives outside funding.

   “We have some outside private annual donations that we receive,” Hanly said. “We also get financial assistance from our Alumni Association, Friends of Lane and the Second Century Foundation. These groups work with us throughout the year to raise money for major programs or needs in the school.”

     Some programs such as Saturday tutoring for English and history classes were cut. The programs that were cut had low student participation, so the administration decided the best decision was to cut funds to those programs. When cutting programs and arranging funds, every decision the administration made is one that will not significantly impact students.

    “Budget decision-making between the LSC and administration has a student-centered focus,” Thompson said.

    Adams said that it may seem incredibly difficult to get the best from your education in these circumstances, but the administration asks that we trust not only in the budget but in them as well.

    Lane lost some members of faculty for a variety of reasons this year, one of them being budget. Fortunately, the majority of class options were saved. Some were not, like all sections of the language class, Latin. Yet, for reasons independent of budget.

   “Student interest in languages helps to determine how many teachers we will have to teach a language,” Thompson said. “In order to have a full-time teacher for a language, at least 140 students have to be interested in taking the language. When that is not the case, we search for other areas of certification for the teacher to help create a full time position. Sometimes that is possible and at other times it is not.”

   The majority of the budget covers staff salaries and benefits. The remaining money is used for programs (tutoring, stem programs, etc.), building operations (supplies for the actual building), college and career planning, transportation, and technology.

    Lane students play an important role in the budget. The budget is based on student enrollment. When the enrollment falls, so does funding, and that could lead to cuts in programs. Therefore, in the words of the student LSC representative, instead of worrying about what the budget could cause, “focus on your education and focus on coming to class.”

   Adams said that all Lane students must realize that there are professionals, parents, teachers and many people coming together and working to make this year as “fabulous” as ever. Adams also said that Lane’s administration is doing their best with what they have been given.

   “I think Lane’s administration are used to working with these tight budgets,” Adams said. “CPS has had a budget problem for as long as I can remember, so it will be tough but I think we’ll get through it.”