Chicago Public Schools facing lower enrollment but more teachers

(The Center Square) – A new report shows a decade-long problem of low test scores and enrollment decline for Chicago Public Schools.

The report was done by the Illinois Policy Institute and looked into CPS, the state’s largest public school system and the nation’s third-largest.

Analysis shows CPS has lost about 63,500 students during the past decade. That leaves about one-third of CPS’ traditional, non-charter schools less than half full. Five schools are less than 10% full, according to the analysis.

At the same time, district proficiency is at record lows. For example, in 2020-2021, only 21% of third- through eighth-grade students scored as proficient in reading, and only 16% scored as proficient in math.

Despite the issues plaguing the district, the schools still receive larger amounts of funding each year, according to IPI’s Mailee Smith.

“People are seeing their property taxes increase, and the schools are getting more funding because of it,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, within CPS, that is not correlating with a better academic outcome for the students.”

Despite the 10-year loss in student population, state and local funding for the district is up 40%, an increase of nearly $2 billion over 10 years.

Smith also said negotiations between the teachers union and the district had hindered student learning.

“The Chicago Teachers Union has made things more unstable by walking out on students three times, in three school years,” Smith said. “It remains to be seen if they make it four with this school year.”

CEO Pedro Martinez said he doesn’t think the district has a teacher shortage as it has “over 300” more teachers than last year and this year’s budget includes over 1,000 additional staff positions.

“I feel good, and I’ll give another example, because I know you’ll ask but the concern that we won’t have enough teachers this year, overall we are actually in a really good place,” Martinez said.

CPS test scores have been trending downward for years, with student reading proficiency dropping 70% and math proficiency dropping 80% since 2010.

Smith said the issues had worsened since a change of leadership in 2010 when the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, took over the union.

“Since CORE took over CTU, it has been followed by 55% higher costs and a loss of nearly 80,000 students in the district,” Smith told The Center Square.

The Chicago Public School system has a $9.5 billion budget.