Developments in Chicago could provide better schools city-wide

The Chicago Tribune reported recently that Chicago Public Schools intend to increase a property tax levy by the maximum amount allowed for the second year in a row. The news came from CPS officials on June 27 even before the group released its budget for next year. The increase will come in an effort to counter a deficit of $700 million already established and also help to finance longer school days.

The tax increase is expected to generate $41 million, which school board president David Vitale says will help maintain “our commitment to class size, the full school day and early childhood development.” Breaking this large sum down, the tax increase will mean that an owner of a $250,000 Chicago house will have to pay an additional $28 in property taxes next year. The district reported losing roughly $114 million in federal and state funding as partial motivation for the requested tax hike.

In a related issue, a large number of CPS teachers voted earlier this month to authorize a strike, which has been enough incentive to speed up contract negotiations and improve the overall tone of the talks. The talks are reportedly broadening to include “items once thought off the table, possibly including class size, teacher breaks and recall procedures for teachers who are laid off,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

With the possibility of a strike still pending, the arbitrator of the negotiations will be issuing a report in mid-July, and the earliest a teacher strike could occur would be toward the end of August. However, reports indicate a positive outlook and point to an improvement of Chicago schools. CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said that only 850 teachers are expected to be laid off this year, which is 21 percent less than last year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

CPS is tackling other areas, proposing a new conduct code that aims to take a strong stand against school bullying and also to keep kids in school by favoring in-school suspensions over out-of-school suspensions.

The city's schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard told NBC Chicago, “If you take a look at the spirit of this code of conduct, it goes through the proactive means of addressing student behavior, especially building resilience so that when they’re out of school … they know how to walk away from conflict.”

The new policy would require both staff and students to report any witnessed bullying, with an additional requirement that the school investigates any and all claims within 10 days of being reported.

If considering a move to the area, real estate in Chicago may be pricier by a just a bit, due to the tax hike, but the benefits to students may outweigh the cost to property owners.