What can CPS buy for $1 million? Teacher travel edition
Musical performer Chancelor Bennett, 23, popularly known as Chance the Rapper, is giving Chicago Public Schools (CPS) $1 million.
His donation would theoretically cover just over 25 percent of the district’s $3.75 million travel budget for teachers, administrators and students in 2016, according to an analysis of CPS vendor data by Local Government Information Services (LGIS). That includes CPS payments to countless travel agencies, hotels and resorts, like the elegant Hotel Allegro in downtown Chicago; the bucolic Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena; and the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which originally served as a Playboy Club.
LGIS, which publishes Chicago City Wire, examined 5,145 vendor payments made by CPS in the 2015-16 school year, totaling just over $2.2 billion. It identified nearly $4 million in payments to travel-related vendors.
CPS vendors — providing everything from engineering services for new schools being built to pizzas for teachers — received 42 percent of the total $5.3 billion in taxpayer money the district spends per year. The rest is comprised of teacher salaries, benefits and taxpayer-fronted pension contributions.
CPS spending, more than $15,000 per student, ranks among the highest in all of Illinois. But district leaders — and Bennett — claim they need to spend more. Teachers are threatening to walk off the job if suburban and downstate taxpayers don’t give them another $215 million.
Dubai, Memphis, Phoenix, Boston and San Francisco
The LGIS analysis only covers direct travel payments to travel vendors. It doesn’t cover travel-related reimbursements for CPS teachers and consultants.
In 2014 and 2015, then-Simeon H.S. Boys’ Basketball Coach Robert Smith was reimbursed more than $32,000 for team trips around the world, according to school financial records obtained by LGIS.
In 2014, Smith was reimbursed $1,500 for a team trip to Memphis and $2,300 for a trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
In 2015, Smith was reimbursed for trips to Bloomington ($1,700), Boston ($1,000), San Francisco ($1,642), Phoenix ($5,186) and Memphis, Tenn., ($5,103).
Eight miles from campus
CPS also reimbursed Smith for hotel accommodations after games in the Chicago area, including $415 after Simeon played Whitney Young in the 2014 State Tournament Sectional Finals at Marist High School, 8 miles away from Simeon’s campus.
Smith wasn’t the only Simeon staff member reimbursed for travel within the Chicago area.
In Spring 2016, a group of Simeon teachers traveled to a weekend conference at the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort, where they attended a conference. Oak Brook is a 42-mile drive from Simeon.
Non-athlete students also get to take trips, according to Simeon’s records. Fourteen students traveled to Atlanta in January 2014 to attend a cosmetology and barbering show. The trip cost taxpayers $8,991.
'Tomorrowland' at the IMAX
Bennett’s $1 million will go to 10 CPS schools, he said.
They include Westcott Elementary, 409 W. 80th St. in Auburn-Gresham, two blocks from Simeon. The school, serving 395 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, is getting $10,000, according to a report in the New York Times.
Principal Monique Dockery told The New York Times that the money “just opened up a whole new world for Westcott and its students.”
"We focus a lot on reading and math and the core subjects, and yet we have some very talented students who can go beyond that,” Dockery said.
According to Westcott financial records, Dockery’s school spent $13,737 on entertainment and teacher and student development in 2016, including $2,621 to go ice skating, $2,064 to take an “entertainment cruise,” including $258 for “soda and juice,” $900 for a “youth guidance conference” and $432 to see "Tomorrrowland," starring George Clooney, at the Navy Pier Imax theatre.
In 2016, just 11 percent of Westcott students passed the statewide “PARCC” examination. None of its eighth-graders passed Algebra One, according to the Illinois State Board of Education, vs. 18 percent in CPS and 28 percent statewide.
Chicago Public Schools 2016 Travel Expenses
|OK Travel Agency||$1,294,374|
|Mena Tours & Travel||$392,441|
|Hemisphere Travel, Inc||$342,229|
|Brightspark Travel, Inc||$248,727|
|Lakeland Tours, LLC||$231,557|
|Travel Services, Inc||$121,557|
|Spirit Tours, Inc||$109,945|
|Hyatt Hotels & Resorts||$67,435|
|Gerber Tours, Inc||$60,977|
|Eaglewood Resort & Spa||$59,026|
|Blue Island Travel Services||$44,252|
|Educational Tours and Travel Corp||$25,264|
|Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers||$20,000|
|Grant Geneva Resort||$19,442|
|Chicago Lake Shore Hotel||$15,625|
|Doubletree Hotel, Alsip||$13,521|
|Nova Tours & Travel||$11,447|
|Eagle Ridge Resort, Galena||$8,240|
|Doubletree Hotel, Oak Brook||$8,024|
|EF Educational Tours||$6,000|
|Tour Services, Inc||$4,554|
|Oak Lawn Hilton||$4,482|
|Treasured Tours, Inc||$4,225|
|Indian Lakes Resort||$2,000|
|Aarco Travel & Tours||$1,191|
|Doubletree Guest Suites||$278|
|* Source: Chicago Public Schools|
Organizations in this Story
Chicago, IL, United States