Chicago Public Schools gets 53% boost in per-pupil revenues, but academics lag

(The Center Square) – Chicago’s mayor has talked about the amount of money invested in his city’s public schools and the Chicago teachers’ union has said the system has been underfunded.


(The Center Square) – Chicago’s mayor has talked about the amount of money invested in his city’s public schools and the Chicago teachers’ union has said the system has been underfunded.

Yet, data from the Chicago Public Schools budget shows the district has seen a significant increase in funding partnered with a drop in enrollment, while academic achievement has stagnated.

Per pupil funding has increased 53% over nine years while education achievement has remained stagnant. Results by the district in the National Assessment of Educational Progress Nation’s Report Card shows little academic progress.

Chicago Public Schools taught remotely during the pandemic and public schools universally suffered academically across the country from the lack of in-person instruction. While at the same time, there was an influx of federal pandemic relief to the school districts.

But from 2013 through 2019, the district received an increase in funding before the pandemic with little academic improvement. 

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said recently, “I don’t give a lot of attention to grades. …My responsibility is not simply to just grade the system, but to fund the system. That’s how I’m ultimately going to grade whether or not our public school system is working based upon the investments that we make in the people who rely on it.” 

The Chicago Teachers Union said school funding “falls short” of the need and that the pandemic “has only exacerbated that need, at the same time that our schools do not exist in a vacuum.” Adding that “Our most profoundly underfunded schools also are in our most historically neglected neighborhoods, where the stain of racist disinvestment and sweeping income and wealth inequality continues to harm entire communities.” according to a blog from The Chicago Teachers Union.

Colleen Hroncich, a policy analyst with Cato’s Center for Education Freedom, said it was revealed that even the president of the Chicago Teachers Union sends one of her children to a private school.

“Rather than continuing to pour increasing sums of money into a system that isn’t meeting families’ needs, Illinois lawmakers should let funding follow students to education environments that work for them,” Hroncich said in an email to The Center Square. “It’s no wonder families are frustrated by lackluster performance and an increasing achievement gap for black and Latino students. This must be particularly galling when you consider that the average private school tuition in Chicago is less than $12,000.”

According to documents, school funding has continued to increase steadily since 2013, with per pupil funding increasing from 2012-13 to 2021-22 by 53% when adjusted for inflation.

  • $15,179 in 2012-13 per pupil 
  • $23,182 in 2021-22 per pupil

Academics based on the Nation’s Report Card had a slight decrease over the past nine years, according to documents. 

  • 4th grade reading scores were 206.15 in 2013 and 205.20 in 2022.
  • 4th grade math scores were 230.50 in 2013 and 222.20 in 2022.
  • 8th grade reading scores were 253 in 2013 and 251 in 2022.
  • 8th grade math scores were 269 in 2013 and 263 in 2022.

Chicago’s current scores are lower than the average for public school students in larger cities.

Enrollment fell by over 73,000 students over the last nine years, from 403,461 in 2012-13 to 330,411 in 2021-22.

The Chicago Teachers Union didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.