This article was published on WTTW on March 22, 2021 by reporter Matt Masterson.
Chicago Public Schools officials have announced a new $24 million plan to expand behavioral health services and address student trauma. The three-year initiative will be funded, in part, by the $1.8 billion CPS received in federal stimulus dollars.
The school district on Monday released a new “Healing-Centered Framework,” which it said is a first-of-its-kind effort that aims to expand behavioral health teams to every CPS school and offer trainings to existing staffers on how to address students’ trauma, anger and depression.
“I feel like our district is ready and prepared to support our students, and I just want to thank all of you for being partners in this work to help us achieve all of our goals,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said during a livestreamed announcement Monday morning. “Our goal is to be a healthy and safe district for all of our students, where they feel strong and they feel able to meet all of their full potential.”
CPS said it has already spent $1 million to expand existing trainings on a trauma-engaged curriculum. But the district is now committing to spend $8 million per year over the next three years with that money coming from grants, philanthropic donations and federal COVID-19 stimulus relief.
Beyond the additional support teams, those funds will also be used to add social-emotional learning or mental health supports through community partnerships; provide professional development opportunities for staff; and compile resources and supports for staff wellness.
“As a former CPS principal, I’ve witnessed how traumatic experiences can disrupt a young person’s academic performance, personal relationships, and future opportunities in life,” Chicago Beyond Founder and CEO Liz Dozier said in a statement. “I’ve also seen how investing in healing can yield incredible results. Yes, increases in academic performance and attendance, but healing also allows kids to be kids and to feel empowered to show up in ways that are true and authentic to themselves. It’s been our privilege to help CPS articulate this bold vision for healing so that all CPS students can reach their full potential.”