Bang for the buck?
Does more money equal a better education?
There’s perhaps no better way to examine the question than the real-life experiment known as the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), where over the past 10 years enrollment has fallen and spending has soared.
CPS enrollment in 2005 was more than 425,000. Last year it was less than 398,000.
But CPS isn’t spending less than 10 years ago to educate fewer children -- it’s spending more. Much, much more.
In fact, Chicago school spending has risen 30 percent in the past 10 years. Last year, per-pupil spending was $15,120, making CPS one of the richest school districts in the state.
Driven by an all-Chicago power structure in Springfield -- both the House and Senate have been controlled by Chicago Machine Democrats since the mid-1990s, and the 2000s saw two Chicago-bred governors (Rod Blagojevich, Pat Quinn) -- the burden for Chicago school spending now falls on state taxpayers.
Left with complete control of Springfield and state coffers, Chicago leaders did what you’d expect they would: they siphoned more money from downstate and the suburbs to CPS.
In 2005, Springfield sent $1.4 billion to CPS. Last year, it sent $1.8 billion -- for fewer students.
Comparing spending and test scores
So what were the results?
In last year’s statewide PARCC exam, 25 percent of CPS students passed. Put more cynically -- 75 percent failed a test in which failure means a student “isn’t ready for the next grade.”
How did West Cook County schools fare?
The top-performing school in the area was Lincoln Elementary in River Forest, which had a 75 percent passage rate. Yet, it spent less per pupil than Chicago -- $14,756.
Forest Park had among the highest per-pupil spending in the area at $18,067 per pupil. But its two elementary schools -- Field Stevenson and Grant-White -- only scored achievement rates of 20 and 21 percent, respectively.
The poorest-performing school in West Cook was Emerson Elementary in Maywood. It spent $9,144 and managed a 6 percent passage rate.
Proviso Math and Science Academy (60 percent passage) and Oak Park-River Forest High School (41 percent) had the highest performance among high schools in the area, higher than Morton West (25 percent), Proviso West (9 percent), Proviso East (4 percent) and Morton East (2 percent).