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CPS operations by the numbers

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) comprise the 3rd largest district in the United States, with 664+ schools. Critical Theory scholars establish a strong correlation between housing reform, and socio-economic indicators of the last several decades in Chicago to weaker-performing schools, and their communities. In 2013-14, the Chicago Tribune published the names of 48 high schools that were closing due to non-performance - as evidenced by comprehensive indicators collected by CPS headquaters, not only standardized testing [1]. The University of Illinois Chicago published "A Tale of Three Cities" [2] in 2017 to document the diversity, disparity, and discrimination between neighborhoods, grid-locked ethnic enclaves, while documenting the performance of the Medical, Housing, Education, Employment, etc. sectors.

Several years ago, CPS implemented the Common Application for all matriculating high school freshmen. As a teacher for more than 10+ years, I found myself strongly supportive of this policy initiative. The district is run like a corporation, with a CEO, COO, and other business titles, performance models, infrastructure, and bureaucracy. Each year, there is an open public board meeting. I was able to catch the August 28th, 2019 meeting when various issues, reports, and decisions were being slated for the new year.

Arnie Rivera, the current COO gave a fast breakdown of the capital expenditure numbers. This summary paraphrases a lot of what he presented to meeting held at the Chicago Loop office, 42 West Madison Street boardroom. Although I was physically there, taking notes, it was also life-steamed online.

During the next academic school year, CPS requires about $3.4 Billion dollars for its operations. These funds are raised by tax dollars, bonds issued by the district, capital from the State of IL, and local communities, philanthropic funds, and private donors. Of the $3.4B required, $1.8B is necessary for critical infrastructural repairs necessary to the safety and well-being of students: roofs, mechanical systems, turfs, infrastructural upgrades, playgrounds, ground & second story accessibility, etc.

There are about 400 projects going on / taking place in the 2019-2020 school year. Academic, operational, data analytical, and architecture divided RFPs (request for proposals) are put out by the board for open, public participation in contracts. The board uses multiple evaluation & financial models to make decisions upon what gets slated or axed. For the first time in 10 years, Illinois released more than $200M dollars to help fund these projects, approximately 5.89% of the total required.

A further $120M is slated for expanding a full-time pre-K to all schools. $87M will go into IT infrastructure: the Internet, computers, tech labs, etc. CPS is targeting a 1:1 child to laptop ratio, for all students in every school. This requires major upgrades to broadband capabilities, and various internal policy initiatives to develop acceptable utility, (19-0828-PO1 through 19-0828-PO3). Other macro-planning documents include the Annual Regional Analysis FY2020, by district region and referencing the FY2018-9 Master Plan.

I was particularly interested in the build-out of STEM laboratory spaces. With the IoT (Internet of things) and "Maker Space" movement utilizing micro-processors, 3-D printing technology, and mandatory credits for programming classes in high school, a tectonic shift in curriculum, instruction, and equipment is shaking the educational ground, as we speak. High schools will be prioritized for the build-out of STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) laboratories.

A final point, before going back to the STEM lab topic, was to take down modular (temporary camper-style) classrooms peppered throughout some of the over-crowded school properties. Realty decisions will be made in a closed session, with the results to be publicly announced afterwards.

In 2015 the US Department of Education launched a contest for high schools to submit a functioning, reproduce-able "maker-space" plan, awarding $50,000 to 10 schools throughout America. $20k of this award would be an in-kind prize that gifted winning schools Lego EV3 robotics sets, and a slew of other robotics & electronics related technology.

The general idea and motivation for such a contest was for high schools to publicly publish their sustainable, reproduce-able STEM labs. Each winning school would become a hub for disseminating their re-produce-able and sustainable maker-lab plan. While the equipment cost for such a lab can be anywhere between $30-$50k, teaching faculty, physical classrooms, and the administration of these program additions easily cross $65k / school / per year, after the initial equipment investment.

This makes a Dragomanns' solution for STEM workshops even more attractive. For less than one tenth the cost of running a lab full-time, dragomanns can do year-round programming. For schools that are struggling between art & music classes, often choosing one over the other, 21st century tech programs, and inculcating the skills, awareness, and motivation for robotics, tinkering, and building this is a great option and service!

Dragomanns are also involved with the World Robotics Olympiad organization, so that student teams and coaches can participate in friendly competitions locally, and regional qualifying events!



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