This story is a reporting partnership between WBEZ Chicago public radio and Chalkbeat Chicago.
In the midst of a heated debate final yr about whether or not cops ought to work in Chicago’s public faculties, district leaders agreed to pay as much as the complete wage and advantages of workers assigned to the $33 million program, regardless that they’re police division workers.
Chalkbeat Chicago and WBEZ have realized that the college district agreed to pay $152,000 per police officer and $172,000 per sergeant on a 12-month contract. School is in session for 10 months, and officers produce other police division duties throughout the summer time months and different instances they aren’t in faculties.
On Wednesday, in response to months of reporters’ questions and a number of Freedom of Information Act requests, Chicago Public Schools mentioned that it’ll solely pay for the time the cops and sergeants labored on the college program and it gained’t be charged for the months when faculty was closed as a consequence of COVID-19.
The district mentioned it’s conducting a “reconciliation” of prices for the 2019-20 faculty yr, and that it hasn’t paid the Chicago Police Department but. The faculty district was imagined to pay in two installments, in December 2019 and June 2020, according to the contract.
The new particulars elevate questions, nonetheless, a couple of new faculty police contract, which the college board is predicted to vote on in late August.
Protesters have taken to the streets repeatedly since June after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis — a part of a nationwide outcry — and referred to as for the removing of cops from faculty campuses. They’ve additionally pressured the district to spend the cash to help college students with extra social staff and counselors. Earlier this summer time, the Chicago Board of Education voted down a measure to terminate the contract by a slender majority.
Activists, who’ve been pushing to take away cops, have pressed the college district to make use of the $33 million spent on faculty police for different help workers in faculties. The funds units apart cash to pay for 192 officers and 22 sergeants. It may, as an illustration, pay for the salaries and advantages of no less than 311 counselors or social staff. Their common pay and advantages is about $107,000 every, in response to a WBEZ evaluation.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and faculties chief Janice Jackson have mentioned they like to go away the choice to maintain or take away cops to particular person faculties, with native faculty councils voting on the problem. So far, three have decided to remove them whereas no less than 18 have voted to maintain them, in response to a tally being saved by Chalkbeat.
The district has mentioned, nonetheless, that the faculties who vote to take away cops will not get the money again for his or her budgets.
All however one of many faculty board members both declined to remark or didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the SRO funds. Several of them requested for a breakdown of the prices at their June assembly and mentioned they’ve but to obtain one.
But School Board President Miguel del Valle mentioned subsequent yr’s contract will look completely different than this yr’s.
“Stay tuned — this is still being worked on,” del Valle mentioned in a current interview.
The district’s chief of security and safety Jadine Chou additionally advised aldermen at a listening to earlier this month that final yr’s funds is being “audited” and this yr’s can be “right-sized.”
Youth activists who are leading the charge to take away police from faculties have lengthy criticized the shortage of transparency surrounding this system. Meyiya Coleman, a youth organizer with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), mentioned her group has been asking the college district for a breakdown of the college police funds for years.
“It is important for us to know how the money is spent because taxpayers are funding the police and our taxpayers are the ones who are also sending their children to school,” mentioned Coleman, a CPS graduate.
Breaking down the $33 million contract
In response to a number of requests from WBEZ and Chalkbeat, the district launched a “cost breakdown” spreadsheet that particulars police officer personnel prices, together with salaries, advantages and pension obligations, that quantity to $33 million. That’s the utmost quantity CPS is allowed to spend on the year-long faculty police contract.
The Chicago Police Department and the town Department of Finance mentioned they didn’t hold an in depth breakdown of the college police funds.
The spreadsheet launched this week exhibits CPS budgeted the annual common wage for every of 192 officers stationed in faculties or in roving automobiles of $87,000 a yr, plus $65,000 in advantages.
The advantages per officer embody $40,000 in contributions for pensions, $13,000 for healthcare and $1,800 for a uniform allowance, amongst different miscellaneous prices. For the 22 faculty sergeants, the district pays a base wage of $101,000 plus $71,000 in annual advantages, for a complete value of $173,000 per sergeant, together with pension and medicare prices.
By comparability, the common value of advantages for counselors is half of what CPS is contributing for cops. About 13 schools have conflict resolution specialists whose whole wage and profit package deal is about $80,000. Most faculties within the faculty useful resource officer program are assigned two officers, for a complete value of as much as $304,000.
Ald. Chris Taliaferro, 29th ward, who heads the general public security committee, mentioned the college district shouldn’t be paying for the advantages of cops.
“They are still Chicago police officers, employed by the Chicago Police Department,” Taliaferro mentioned. Instead, that extra funding may go to highschool counselors or restorative justice helps, he mentioned.
When officers are usually not serving in faculties throughout the summer time, they return to their district of project, police officers mentioned.
The Chicago Police Department mentioned it additionally picked up the prices to implement among the current faculty police modifications required by the federal consent decree this yr, together with new school-specific coaching and reviewing the disciplinary histories of officers already working in faculties. The division declined to say how a lot that coaching value.
An advanced funds historical past
How a lot CPS is paying and ought to be paying the Chicago Police Department for the SRO program has lengthy been controversial and political. Under Mayor Richard M. Daley, who began the SRO program within the early 1990s, the town principally picked up the prices, although it went backwards and forwards.
Then, in 2012, with the town dealing with a funds shortfall, the brand new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, insisted CPS pay $58 million for unspecified safety providers offered for an unspecified period of time earlier than Emanuel was mayor. Part of his reasoning was that CPS was not paying the complete value of police stationed in faculties.
The quantity the college district has agreed to pay to the police division has fluctuated over time — $33 million is likely one of the highest quantities — regardless of lowering numbers of cops assigned to varsities. Also, it’s unclear what CPS has been agreeing to pay for and whether or not that has ever included full advantages for every officer and sergeant.
The intergovernmental settlement of 2013 referred to as for CPS to pay the police division as much as $13 million for one yr and required that the police division bill CPS, citing the variety of hours every officer labored, with the intention to be paid.
Later in Emanuel’s tenure, with CPS dealing with a funds shortfall, the mayor determined the town would decide up safety prices, together with its fee to the police division.
The SRO program’s funds “has been historically a moving target,” mentioned Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a funds watchdog group. “Now you have Mayor Lightfoot and the City Council attempting to both rationalize and account for this cost.”
Experts notice that the general public faculty system paying the police division for providers just isn’t like a authorities company paying a contractor after it submits an bill. Funds are possible transferred between departments on the metropolis degree as a result of each the general public faculties and the police are funded via property taxes.
Msall additionally mentioned a value breakdown of the funds doesn’t inform the general public whether or not the college district is being charged proportionally to the providers it’s receiving.
There’s no greatest observe for the way cops who’re assigned to varsities ought to be paid.
Mo Canady, government director of the National Association of School Resource Officers,
mentioned there are as many approaches to highschool police budgets as there are faculty police items. Many share prices, however Canady, who skilled Chicago cops in school-specific work final summer time, mentioned there isn’t a robust settlement that one method is healthier than the opposite.
Pressure for change
The Chicago Board of Education will vote on the college police contract because it appears to be like to an unsure budgetary future. Chicago Public Schools has spent about $55 million responding to the coronavirus crisis so far, with about $25 million on expertise, a portion of which got here from federal emergency funds launched to answer COVID-19 wants.
State funding will hold steady this year, however the district gained’t get the rise it anticipated and will increase might be threatened in coming years. Meanwhile, its prices proceed to rise. The federal authorities additionally has threatened to tie funds for reopening faculty campuses to in-person studying.
In reality, CPS CEO Janice Jackson mentioned if the board of training had voted to cancel the contract with the police, she may have used the cash to assist stability the college district’s funds.
When contemplating the place to chop, some observers say the college police funds might be an choice, particularly if fewer college students are in class subsequent yr due to the pandemic.
Msall agrees. “I think the real question is: ‘Is the only way to maintain security in schools for the Chicago Police Department with sworn officers with the right to have a gun in the school?’” he requested. “Certainly, we’ve seen that there is an enormous need for more social workers, more counselors, more services, mental health services for the students.”
As stress continues from actions to defund police, F. Chris Curran, an affiliate professor on the University of Florida who has studied faculty self-discipline and security, mentioned he expects to see faculty districts attempt to stability their budgets partially via responding to calls to vary police funding.
If the college district responds to the stress to vary its police program, Curran mentioned, he expects it “will perhaps alter the way in which school police are operating, or scale them back a little bit, without doing away with them entirely.”
Other cities have taken completely different approaches in response to calls to finish faculty policing which have intensified within the wake of the Floyd killing.
In Los Angeles, the college board voted in June to cut the $70 million school police budget by $25 million, ensuing within the layoffs of 65 officers and the elimination of extra time pay. That cash will as a substitute be reinvested into social staff and counselors, a key demand of the motion agitating for the change. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has planned to give school police more money.