Both sides claim victory in layoff court ruling

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Chicago Public Schools did violate state law in its treatment of teachers laid off last summer, according to a 2-1 ruling issued Tuesday by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ordered the district to
create a policy that gives teachers a chance to demonstrate their
qualifications for new positions.

Chicago Public Schools did violate state law in its treatment of teachers laid off last summer, according to a 2-1 ruling issued Tuesday by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ordered the district to
create a policy that gives teachers a chance to demonstrate their
qualifications for new positions.

But as might be expected, CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union disagree about what the decision means: Must the laid-off teachers be recalled, or not?

The final outcome of the case will determine what happens to the teachers. The appeals court sent the case back to the same district court that previously ordered CPS to bargain with the teachers’ union over recall procedures.  

But this time, in a victory for CPS, the appeals court found the district doesn’t have to negotiate with the union over the laid-off teachers’ fate.

The appeals court upheld the district court’s ruling that CPS has to rescind the teachers’ discharges. But that doesn’t mean the teachers automatically get their jobs back, or even get a spot in the reassigned teacher pool.

“Rescinding the discharges only allows the teachers to take advantage of the opportunity to show their qualifications for new vacancies for a reasonable period of time,” the court found. “In this context, their ‘laid-off’ status does not implicate past or future payment or benefits.”

This raises the possibility that CPS could simply issue a policy that formalizes its existing stance on how the teachers can get re-hired – that is, by applying for jobs and competing against other candidates.

Michael Persoon, a lawyer for the CTU, says that is not a possibility. The union, in a statement, hailed the ruling as a victory for due process and tenure rights.

“I don’t think the court gave any support or any credit to CPS’ treatment of these teachers,” he says.

Indeed, the court found that CPS’ contention “that the teachers received all of the process that was due to them because it held two job fairs and a resume workshop and pointed the teachers to a website listing vacancies… cannot be squared with the Board’s several admissions on the record that it has ‘no recall procedure in place.’”

 “They don’t have absolute discretion to issue whatever policy they want,” Persoon adds. “When you look at what the requirements of state law are, and what the case law is around due process, the board can’t issue a policy that would result in something other than the tenured teachers who’ve been laid off being put into positions as they open up.”

State law requires that procedures for recalling teachers account for their qualifications, certifications, experience, and performance evaluations.

James Franczek, an attorney for CPS, notes that “the appellate court itself really did not set forth what’s going to be in the procedures.”

The specific text of the ruling states that “the teachers should be given a meaningful opportunity to show that they are qualified for new vacancies for a reasonable period of time.”

 “The court went out of its way to say that those teachers will not necessarily be given preference over other applicants for those positions,” Franczek notes.