Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sun-Times: CPS cuts into schools’ cellphone tower cash deals

My old elementary school, Bennett-Shedd, were beneficiaries of such an arrangement. Now I wonder how many other schools have such arrangements and if there are any concerns over this move by CPS:
It was a way for a number of cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools to generate a little extra income on their own: leasing roof space to cellular phone companies looking for a place to erect their towers.

But now CPS is putting the arm on the schools, allowing them to keep only a third of the money they raise.

The change was quietly slipped through, surprising school administrators in an already tumultuous budget year.

The district told them, via their new budgets for the year, that the schools could have just a third of that money and the other two-thirds would be distributed to the rest of CPS schools.

In a $5 billion budget for the district of about 400,000 children, the $4.2 million generated by about 140 cellphone leases at some 95 schools could run a CPS elementary school.
There are other revenue streams for a school to exploit. For example:
Other kinds of leases have not been touched — fields and auditoriums and parking spaces leased to Zipcar — according to the district and several LSCs.

Not yet, anyway, said Tony Porfirio, LSC chair of Blaine Elementary School in Lake View, which abuts a particularly congested segment of Southport Avenue near the Music Box Theater and half a mile west of Wrigley Field.

The Lake View school doesn’t have a cell tower agreement anymore, but it does lease its auditorium and some classrooms to a church on Sundays, and its parking lot is frequently used during Cubs games on nights and weekends. The church deal yields it about $34,000 a year, according to the lease documents; the parking deal is worth another $60,000.

Last year, Porfirio said, that extra money paid for a long list of goods: printer supplies, field trip buses, professional development on using technology, refurbished iPads and part of a learning program used during study hall for enrichment. And this year, Blaine stands to lose about $600,000 overall over last year, threatening the school’s arts programs.
 How else will our neighborhood schools - especially those in low income communities - be able to raise funds for our youth to educate them?

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