More than 130 Chicago Public Schools principals on Thursday learned they'd been selected to receive generous bonuses -- some as much as $20,000 -- as recognition for their work in boosting students' academic performance.
It's the second year in a row such bonuses were handed out, and nearly half of last year's recipients were awarded again this year. In total, 134 principals will split about $1.1 million.
"We just witnessed the largest single year growth in graduation rates in a decade – the best on the record books; record college enrollment rate, more freshmen on track to graduate than ever before; and more Gates Millennium Scholars than any school system in the country," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a written statement. "These results don’t just happen; they are hard-won by our teachers in the classroom, parents in the home, and these incredible principals here today."
CPS provided a document detailing the award recipients, which represent 128 elementary schools and six high schools.
Awardees this year include:
- 6 principals achieving the $20,000 Bonus Award
- 75 principals achieving the $10,000 Bonus Award
- 53 principals achieving the $5,000 Bonus Award
- 13 principals are from Welcoming Schools
- 9 principals are from elementary and high school charters
- 7 principals are from elementary AUSL schools
- 2 principals are from military high schools
While the money comes from private donors such as philanthropist Penny Pritzker and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, critics said the financial incentives were inappropriate at a time when thousands of teachers have been laid off and the district deals with a budget deficit topping $1 billion.
"There will be critics, and I understand," Emanuel told NBC Chicago. "But it is part of an overall and comprehensive plan. And the money -- taxpayers don't pay for it -- but all the parents and the children are the beneficiaries of this."
Some of the principals questioned Thursday said they would share the award with their staffs and students. Still, the money comes with no rules, meaning the principals can spend it any way they wish.
"No principal is in it for the money but it is nice to have somebody recognize that you're doing hard work every day to make sure the students in our city are on the path to college success," said Legal Prep Charter Academy principal Sam Finkelstein.
Last year, 82 principals shared $570,000 in bonus money.