Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials announced a proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 on Aug. 8 at Morgan Park High School (MPHS)—and they chose that location, they said, in order to celebrate a major investment in the school, 1744 W. Pryor Ave.
As part of what officials called a focus on neighborhood schools and “putting equity first,” MPHS will receive $23 million for capital improvements, including updated classrooms and a new athletic field for football and other sports.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced the investment alongside 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea and Mayor Lori Lightfoot in laying out a proposed CPS budget of $7.7 billion, which will include at least $619 million for a capital improvement plan across the city.
MPHS Assistant Principal Kia Erquhart said her school is deserving of the investment while noting students’ success in the classroom and athletic fields.
“Today is a joyous day,” Erquhart said. “On behalf of the Morgan Park family, we would like to thank Mayor Lightfoot and CEO Jackson for investing—but more importantly, believing—in our students.”
According to CPS officials, the district will invest $619 million of its own money as part of a total $821 million that will go toward capital improvements at over 300 schools, with 93 percent of the funding going to schools that serve majority low-income students. The remaining $202 million is expected to come from $191 million dedicated to CPS in a state capital bill that was approved earlier this year and $11 million in contingency funds from other external sources.
According to officials, other aspects of the budget plan include CPS using $120 million for its “largest-ever capital investment” in pre-kindergarten classrooms, as well as $10.5 million for improved ADA accessibility at schools. Another $10 million will be dedicated for nurse, social-worker and case-manager positions, as well as funds for recruitment and pipeline development for those positions, and $12 million will go to support English learners at over 100 schools.
MPHS supporters have pushed for school improvements several times in recent years, including hosting an online fundraiser for a new football field.
Carisa Parker, chairperson of the MPHS Local School Council, said she has advocated for a new football field since joining the local school council in 2011.
“Just to hear that our new mayor and our [CPS CEO] have listened to us, it’s just kind of made it all worth it,” Parker said, “that we have kept asking and asking and asking over the years.”
The new athletic field will accompany an improved baseball field to which, in April, Chicago Cubs Charities donated $87,380 to fund a new infield, renovated dugouts and new fencing for the backstop in time for the 2020 season.
Jackson was greeted with applause in discussing plans for CPS to invest in MPHS.
“Morgan Park students and staff will able to enjoy a modernized school building, a beautiful athletic field and many other capital improvements,” she said, “that will make this a welcoming place.”
The 19th Ward is home to a mix of neighborhood and magnet CPS schools, with MPHS being the only neighborhood high school.
O’Shea said aging neighborhood schools in the ward deserve an investment.
“This is very, very big news, especially to a community like mine, where I have so many schools 120, 100, 90, 80 years old,” O’Shea said. “I’m so proud to have our mayor here.”
The budget also includes $5 million for 32 schools to improve specific academic programs such as STEAM/STEM, fine and performing arts, dual language and world language. CPS officials announced that plan this spring, and Shoop Academy, an elementary school in Morgan Park, was selected to receive funds to improve its STEM program.
In a statement, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Jesse Sharkey criticized the budget, saying, among other things, that Lightfoot had “promised to expand staffing for social workers, school nurses and other critical positions by hundreds,” but Sharkey said the budget had no additional funding for nurses.
CTU’s contract expired on June 30, and CTU officials and Lightfoot said they are eager to hold bargaining meetings in person.
According to CPS officials, public hearings on the capital plan will be held on Aug. 21, from 6 to 8 p.m., at three high schools, including MPHS; Whitney Young, 211 S. Laflin St.; and Amundsen, 5110 N. Damen Ave.
CPS will host two budget hearings—on Aug. 20, at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.—at CPS Central Office, 42 W. Madison St.
The final budget is expected to be presented to the Board of Education at its Aug. 28 meeting.