Budget increase at Taft HS
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School operating budget for the next school year will be $22.19 million, about $216,000 higher than the last school year.
The Taft High School Local School Council at its July 24 meeting unanimously approved the budget and heard an update on efforts to bring a new outdoor sports facility to the school.
Taft’s budget, which includes diverse learner funding and state supplemental general aid, does not cover 37 additional staff positions, including the principal, a security guard and a clerk, which the school system provides Taft from a different fund. The cost of those positions will be $2.11 million. The per pupil funding allocated by the Chicago Public Schools has increased by 5 percent from 2016-17, when teachers received a raise in the middle of the year.
Assistant principal Eric Flores said that 99 percent of the operating budget is allocated for salaries, with about $90,000 being reserved for supplies and building repairs. The school uses a portion of student fees, which will be $450 this fall, for building maintenance and repairs.
Taft’s budget is based on a projected enrollment of 3,302 students, but the final figure is estimated to be about 3,225. The school will receive an additional $5,320 per pupil over the initial estimate, based on attendance on the 10th day of school in September, Flores said.
About 3,365 students have enrolled, but not all have registered for classes, and some are expected to go to school elsewhere, Flores said. "We’re still reaching out to some of the families who have not registered," he said.
The budget will allow Taft to hire four new teachers, two new security guards and up to four part-time employees, Flores said. It also includes extended-day funding, which is used to help teachers review the curriculum and align instruction with Taft’s continuous improvement work plan, whose goals include the critical thinking philosophy of the International Baccalaureate Program.
Taft also aligns its curriculum with the SAT college entrance exam. "This is from the day they walk into this building (as freshmen)," Flores said.
Some LSC members expressed concern that the budget could be reduced, given the lack of a school funding formula for the state and given the mid-year cuts which the school system implemented in the last two school years. Governor Bruce Rauner has called lawmakers into a special session in an effort to resolve the formula dispute, which could delay state payments to schools districts throughout Illinois.
Flores said that he will provide council members with updates if there are changes to the school’s budget.
Also at the meeting, it was reported that a group of investors has expressed interest in funding the construction of a new athletic field at Taft in exchange for allowing an Irish football league to use the facility on Sundays. The investors reportedly would like to oversee the facility’s construction but the school system requires that one of its approved vendors be the project’s contractor.
Preliminary plans for a new facility with spectator stands at Taft was announced about a year ago, but the school system opted not to fund the project.
In other news, Taft assistant principal Patrick Levins reported that the school is looking into purchasing hand-held devices which would scan the identification cards of students who are tardy or caught in the hallways during class. He said that the devices would allow staff to quickly record the infraction, allowing the student to get to class sooner.
Levins said that he wants devices with technology which allows the school to automatically set up "robocalls" to the parents of tardy students. "I want to take information (from the devices) and use that information," he said. "Take a little pressure off the teachers."
It also was reported that Taft principal Mark Grishaber, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year, underwent a successful bone marrow transplant in July and plans to return to school at the end of October. "He’s doing. Well. He’s been exercising a little bit," LSC staff representative member May Kay Cobb said.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, at the school, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.