Aug 18, 2023 - Education

Things to watch while prepping for the new CPS year

families walking

Parents and students arrive for the first day of school at Nettelhorst in Lakeview in 2022. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Though most suburban schools are already back in session, CPS officially launches its academic year for more than 300,000 students on Monday.

Why it matters: The resumption of the school year will dramatically shift commuting, working and sleeping patterns for at least a million Chicagoans, including students, teachers, staff, parents and workers at school-related businesses.

  • That means even if you don't have kids in CPS, you'll probably feel the effects of 400,000 more commuters on the street. Enjoy the calm before the swarm.

Four things to watch

family with hands on heart
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, his wife Stacie, sons Owen, and Ethan and daughter Braedyn, stand for the pledge of allegiance during Johnson's inauguration ceremony in May. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mayor and CPS parent

What's new: Mayor Brandon Johnson will become the first city chief in recent memory to send his children to Chicago Public Schools.

  • As a former CPS teacher and CTU lobbyist, Johnson may maintain the closest ties to the system we've ever seen in a Chicago mayor.

What we're watching: Whether these close ties mean a rare four straight years of labor peace in one of the city's biggest workforces.


State of play: After a decade of enrollment declines, CPS dropped to the nation's fourth-largest school district last year, behind Miami-Dade County, Chalkbeat Chicago reports.

  • Last fall, CPS stood at 322,106 students, which is 9,000 fewer than the previous year and 80,000 fewer than the decade before that.

What we're watching: How the recent influx of Afghan, Syrian, Ukrainian and Central and South American arrivals affects that equation.

Teacher shortages

State of play: Chicago Public Schools has 1,099 unfilled teaching positions, which is a nearly 5% vacancy rate, according to Illinois State Board of Education data.

The big picture: The state has about 3,500 unfilled teaching positions, which they're trying to fix with programs like full-tuition scholarships for minority future educators.

What they're saying: Illinois' superintendent of education Tony Sanders issued a call to Florida and Texas teachers this week in "The 74," asking, "Has your state become hostile to your autonomy, your rights and the mission of education? If yes, I say: Come to Illinois. We're hiring, and we'd love to have you."

Of note: CPS still needs more bus drivers, even though the 672 they have this year is a slight increase from last year, WBEZ reported. Only 7,000 families will have bus service on the first day of school, and the district says it's prioritizing diverse learners and those in temporary living situations.


In June, the Board of Education approved a relatively flat $9.4 billion spending plan for this school year but warned of coming deficits when COVID money runs out next year, per Chalkbeat Chicago.

What we're watching: Whether the state comes up with money to address the deficit and whether the district can move away from per-pupil budgeting that disproportionately affects under-enrolled schools in poorly resourced neighborhoods.

💭 Monica's thought bubble: This is the first time in 18 years our family won't be sending a kid off to a first day at CPS, and it feels weird.

  • It also still feels weird to see CPS starting before Labor Day. Boo.

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