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Chicago Public Schools Enrollment Drops by Another 10,000 Students

December 8, 2017

Enrollment in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has dropped by at least 10,000 students for the second year in a row.

CPS reported 11,000 fewer students enrolled in its schools during the 2016-17 school year, and at the start of the 2017-18 school year the Chicago Tribune reported 10,000 more students had left the CPS schools. That number, the newspaper reported in October 2017, “includes all schools that operate under the district’s oversight, including privately run charter schools.”

Despite the continued exodus, “The district has said it won’t reduce funding for schools where enrollment fell below projections,” the Tribune reported. “CPS also said it will not make any midyear budget cuts or order unpaid staff furloughs, as it has in each of the past two years.”

‘Fiscal Shambles’

Lennie Jarratt, project manager for the Center for Transforming Education at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, which publishes School Reform News, says the declines reflect widespread discontent with the continued mismanagement of the city.

“The explanation is simple,” Jarratt said. “People are moving out of Chicago faster than people are moving in. The reasons for this are obvious to anyone who lives here. Chicago is in fiscal shambles, which is driving businesses and people out of the city and the state due to the continued increase in the already high tax burden. This has led to a lack of good jobs in many communities. This is all exacerbated by the violent streets.”

‘Created Their Own Problem’

Chris Cleveland, chairman of the Chicago GOP, says low-quality government schools drive people away.

“They say that enrollment is declining because people are leaving the city,” Cleveland said. “But they’ve got it backwards: People are leaving the city because the schools are so poor. They’ve created their own problem.”

‘Well-Known’ Corruption

Jarratt says the way Illinois’ education system is set up dooms the city and state to continued fiscal messes.

“This practice is the same across nearly every district in Illinois,” Jarratt said. “The inflexibility in teacher contracts, hiring of an inordinate number of administrators, and the ever-increasing debt due to poor fiscal management continue to prevent any significant decreases in spending. If CPS could go bankrupt, it would be on the verge of doing so.

“The corruption within CPS is well-known, and this is just a small portion of the problems the district faces,” Jarratt said. “The larger problems are the extremely underfunded pension fund after skipping several years of payments, and the unsustainable teacher contract perks and raises.”

Jarratt says recent policy changes ensure CPS’s problems will continue to burden local taxpayers.

“The state recently changed the school funding formula, which included a bailout of CPS and allowed them to raise property taxes even higher than they would normally,” Jarratt said. “This incentivizes CPS to consider following the same road of fiscal mismanagement, forcing taxpayers to suffer the consequences the district should incur.”

Teresa Mull (tmull@heartland.orgis a research fellow in education policy at The Heartland Institute.


Tim Benson, “Thanks to Teachers Union, Chicago Public Schools Are a Perpetual-Motion Machine of Mediocrity,” The Heartland Institute, January 19, 2016:

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Teresa Mull is a policy advisor for education at The Heartland Institute. @SchoolReform

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