In 2013, Chicago Public Schools, along with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, announced plans for the closure of 50 CPS schools in May of that year. Schools reaching minimums in both low enrollment and poor performance were cut. The closure displaced about 11,000 students, marking it the largest mass school closure in the history of the United States. Neighborhoods in the South and West Sides, such as Englewood and Austin, struggled the most with the destabilization of their communities (Parrish & Ikoro, 2022).
In the aftermath of the closures, a new funding model known as the Student-Based Budgeting (SBB) model was implemented to provide greater funding to schools deemed more in need than others. As it follows, SBB distributes funds to schools based on a “per-pupil basis” (CTU, 2020). Ultimately, the more students enrolled within a school, the greater allocation of funds goes towards that school, regardless of the needs of the school’s students. While SBB is praised for allowing schools greater autonomy within their budgets, the model disproportionately disadvantages schools within distressed areas of Chicago.
Sara Perez, an elementary school teacher in Chicago’s Little Village, expressed ongoing concern she has about SBB's role in a loss in her students’ success. “Many of my students come from low-income backgrounds requiring additional resources not only academic but socially and emotionally as well.” Perez shared, “I have seen reductions in crucial support staff like counselors and special education teachers eliminating the possibility for students to receive individualized help.” Perez also expressed the increasing vulnerability she felt in juggling the needs of all of her students.
As the SBB model continues, the economic divide among Chicago Public Schools increases. Romona Simmons, a former student at Wendell Phillips High School, expressed immense gratitude towards the empowering teachers and students she had met during her high school career. Simmons admitted that the school’s downfall stems from its lack of money. “While it was clear Phillips lacked classroom and building resources, one thing that I believe was truly hindering, at least during my high school experience, was a lack of social workers on school grounds. If you were a student at Phillips, most likely you had either witnessed violence within or outside the school. I remember there being only one psychologist, even though the school population was really in need of that emotional help.”