Layoffs to total at least 3,000; new budget details emerge

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A number of laid-off teachers, as well as a handful of parents and community members, gathered Friday for a news conference at the Chicago Teachers Union's headquarters.

A number of laid-off teachers, as well as a handful of parents and community members, gathered Friday for a news conference at the Chicago Teachers Union's headquarters.

As the district’s hopes for a state pension holiday fade, CPS has confirmed it is laying off nearly 1,200 additional teachers and nearly 1,100 additional support workers, in addition to 855 teachers and other staff pink-slipped at turnarounds and closing schools last month. 

The cuts bring the total number of teachers laid off due to budget cuts and school closings to 1,742, and the total number of other staff laid off to 1,387, one of the largest layoffs in recent memory. In addition to the 1,036 teachers laid off this week due to school budget decisions and change in enrollment, an additional 161 teachers – 28 percent of the those at closing schools who had ‘excellent’ or ‘superior’ ratings were not able to follow students to receiving schools. These teachers are able to substitute teach for a year; for the first 5 months, they receive their previous salary.

The latest round of layoff decisions have largely been made by school principals, who were handed more autonomy — but less money — with per-pupil funding this year.

An early May draft of the district’s budgeting plan released today by the Chicago Teachers Union, which includes specific school by school budget amounts, shows an $82 million, 4 percent cut to classroom spending. It also notes that schools are losing additional dollars due to changes in enrollment and the way student-based budgeting policy calculates funding rates.

The draft plan shows particularly harsh cuts at high schools, 12 of which were to see cuts of over $1 million and another 23 of which were to see cuts between $500,000 and $1 million. The document indicates 31 high schools were slated to have cuts of up to $500,000, and only 13 were to have their budgets increase.

Among elementary schools, 72 were slated to have cuts of between $250,000 and $520,000, with 166 more seeing cuts of at least $100,000. But 98 schools were expected to have their budgets increase.

But those figures are not necessarily accurate any more. CPS spokeswoman Kelley Quinn says that since the draft plan was created, 135 elementary schools particularly hard hit by the new formula– including those that lost magnet cluster or bilingual funds, and some of those with significant enrollment declines — got either $35,000, $75,000 or $100,000 in additional funds, and all high schools received an additional $40 per pupil. In addition, the district changed its procedures to give principals access to state money earlier in the year.

All tenured teachers laid off by principals in school budgeting, and non-tenured teachers with good ratings, will be eligible to work as substitute teachers next year – but will not get to collect their current pay while doing so.

CPS officials say that historically, more than 60 percent of laid off teachers have found jobs in the district.

The district places blame for the budget cuts and layoffs on a $1 billion budget deficit, driven largely by $400 million in increased pension costs, which total $612 million this year. Earlier this month the district announced plans to fill the hole by raiding its reserve funds and Crain’s reported that CPS would alleviate the deficit by changing how it accounts for property tax revenues.

A potential solution from the state could take the form of delaying the district’s required payments or of increasing state taxes to create more revenue.

Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, spoke at a press conference this morning and accused CPS officials of misleading the public about the level of cuts that were coming to schools.

“There was a cynical attempt by this district to avoid telling the truth,” Sharkey said, though he conceded the district “is not hiding a giant pile of money anywhere.”

He added that CTU is dissatisfied with the district’s idea of pension reform which he described as “blaming retired teachers who make an average of $40,000 a year, who get no Social Security, who never missed a payment when the city itself didn’t pay in 10 years.” Instead, the union would like to see tax changes to increase funding for schools.

Sean Diller, a former orchestra teacher at Kelly High School, said at the press conference that with his layoff some students will have had three orchestra teachers in 3 years, and music class sizes at the school may rise to as high as 90 in some cases. 

Anita Caballero, president of the board of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said that schools in the area have lost a total of $7.5 million in funds for next year, and Kelly High School plans to lay off 23 teachers.

This story has been updated with new information from CPS on additional teacher layoffs at closing schools.

LAYOFFS BY THE NUMBERS

LATEST ROUND

At closing schools:

Support and food service staff: 262

Tenured teachers rated Excellent or Superior: 161

At other schools by principals following budget cuts:

Tenured teachers: 398

Non-tenured teachers: 510

Support staff: 815

Layoffs because of changes in school enrollment:

Tenured teachers: 43

Non-tenured teachers: 85

PREVIOUS ROUND

At closing schools:

Tenured teachers rated Unsatisfactory or Satisfactory: 143

Non-tenured teachers: 277

Teacher assistants, bus aides and other support staff: 243

Turnaround schools:

Tenured teachers rated Unsatisfactory or Satisfactory: 91

Non-tenured teachers: 34

Teacher assistants, bus aides and other support staff: 67