For the Record: Teacher layoff and recall rights

February 17, 2012

Today’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling likely has put to rest a nearly two-year legal battle between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union over layoffs of tenured teachers.

The court found that tenured teachers in Chicago don’t have the right to preferential re-hiring if they are laid off for economic reasons. Of the more than 1,200 teachers affected by the summer 2010 layoff, the several hundred who were not re-hired will not be eligible for back pay or preferential job placement.

More broadly, the ruling means greater discretion for principals in staffing their schools.

The court cited provisions of the 1995 law that gave the mayor unfettered control of the school system.

 “The 1995 amendment reflects a clear legislative intent to change the statutory rights of tenured teachers in a layoff,” the majority opinion states. (In the rest of the state, teachers still have a right to recall.)

As the court interpreted it, the law gives CPS the authority to factor in teacher performance, as it did when then-CEO Ron Huberman announced in June 2010 that “unsatisfactory” teachers would be laid off first.

The district also gets to decide whether – if at all – to create a procedure for recalling laid-off teachers.

Chicago Public Schools officials praised the court ruling, saying in a statement that it “upheld school reforms that empower principals to make hiring decisions that are in the best interests of their students to boost academic achievement during a time when too many students in our system are struggling.”

The Chicago Teachers Union slammed the ruling, calling the fact that the law treats Chicago different from the rest of the state an example of “Chicago’s separate and unequal practices.”

Under the current CTU contract, teachers who are laid off for non-economic reasons, namely school turnarounds and declining student populations, will continue to get the first shot at jobs that come open in CPS.

But the contract expires June 30, and it’s anyone’s guess whether the next contract will include that provision.