Topline: Tens of thousands of laptops and iPads were lost or stolen from Chicago Public Schools in the 2021-22 school year, amounting to $23 million in missing property.
Key facts: The Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools’ annual report found that 77,505 devices were missing from schools’ inventory, including 27% of all devices lent out to students.
Three dozen schools reported that every single device lent out to students was missing. In three schools, 50% of all devices in the building were reported as lost or stolen.
Half of the schools in Chicago lost at least 10% of their devices, a percentage the Inspector General called a “serious problem.”
The $23 million price tag on the missing devices is a conservative estimate, according to the report.
The Inspector General found instances where families failed to return laptops, and the schools simply marked the items as lost rather than try to recover them.
In another case, two siblings lost 10 devices without consequence.
CPS spent $2.6 million on software to track lost devices, but the report claims the software was not used properly.
The report noted that just because a device is currently lost doesn’t mean it will never be recovered.
Background: The missing laptops only exacerbate a larger financial crisis in Chicago schools. The district is projected to have a $391 million deficit this year as federal COVID-19 relief funds dry out, with school leaders arguing that they are not receiving enough money from the state to properly serve their students.
Chicago’s 638 public schools have an $8.5 billion budget for the current school year, about $2.5 billion more than the district had in 2019. Enrollment numbers have also decreased over the past five years.
Student performance is also dropping. In 2022, there were 50 schools where every fourth-grade student failed to demonstrate proficiency in either math or reading.
Supporting quote: “In a district of our size, some device loss is expected, but we remain concerned about the loss of any public asset,” a CPS spokesperson said.
“Our CPS team will work to streamline our system for tracking resources, including devices, while enforcing compliance with board policy. In a district where more than 72% of students are from economically disadvantaged families, it is crucial that we are sensitive to our families as we conduct any device recovery efforts.”
Summary: Chicago schools can’t account for 77,505 devices lost by students and staff during the pandemic, and $2.6 million software to track lost devices wasn’t used properly. Chicago schools clearly isn’t a good steward of public money, and should be help accountable.
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