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CPS superintendent proposes new budget the school board says aligns well with district's focus

CPS Superintendent Iranetta Wright
Zack Carreon
CPS Superintendent Iranetta Wright.

At Monday's school board meeting, Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright presented a new district budget recommendation for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

The recommended budget totals $608 million with staff salaries and benefits accounting for 77% of spending.

This latest budget arrived months after Wright presented an unfinished budget in Marchthat was criticized by some in the school community. Over the summer, budget plans were pushed back even further due to uncertainty surrounding the funding CPS would receive from Ohio's recent two-year state budget.

Wright says the plan focuses on building a strong foundation for the district by putting resources toward improving academic outcomes for high school students, prioritizing teachers, and growing ESL programs.

Get caught up: CPS staff say superintendent's proposed budget focuses on the wrong areas

What's in the plan

CPS would add graduation counselors and attendance social workers to its high schools with the goal of tackling chronic absenteeism and low graduation rates. During her "State of the Schools" speech in December, Wright identified these two issues as some of her top priorities.

Positions including reading and math specialists are maintained in the new plan. CPS would also have 13 full-time ESL community coordinators to assist students in learning to speak English.

Another area of focus in the plan is increasing leadership support in schools. The district would add 16 assistant principals to help in school offices and provide another resource for students.

In the district's central office, staff would shrink slightly with a net reduction of two full-time positions.

Board reaction

Board President Ben Lindy expressed satisfaction with the presentation, saying it aligned well with the goals the board had set for the district.

"Two of our goals are about increasing the number of students — partially students of color — graduating with an industry-based credential or a college credit plus. I think there's a lot of focus on making our high schools stronger places," Lindy said. "Similarly, we have a guardrail around graduation from high school, which is important on its own and because we can't do well on the state report card absent in improvement of our graduation rate, and we have strategies that are aligned to that."

Though many board members felt the budget targeted the right areas, some shared concerns about the future ahead.

RELATED: CPS Superintendent prioritizes student engagement and mental health during State of the Schools address

The budget includes around $112 in ESSER funding, which is money the district has been receiving from the federal government as emergency relief following the COVID-19 pandemic. CPS has used some of that money to hire reading and math specialists along with other services for students. According to Wright, that money won't be around next year. Instead, the district expects to get an additional $6 million in funding next school year, putting CPS in a position where it will have to figure out how to hold onto staff and programs with potentially more than $100 million less money than it has this fiscal year.

The board says it expects to vote on whether to approve the budget by the end of September.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.