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CPS Announces New Cuts, Layoffs in 2016 Budget

By Alex Nitkin | August 10, 2015 12:55pm
 Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

DOWNTOWN — Chicago Public Schools will cut more than $200 million from its overall budget next year, administrators said in a conference call Monday. This in on top of the $60 million in cuts announced earlier this summer based on school-by-school enrollment projections

In his unveiling of the budget for the 2016 fiscal year, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool also said that despite "working tirelessly to keep from taking dollars out of the classroom," the district will have no choice but to lay off 479 teachers and 1,012 non-teaching staff.

The school system was able to close a $1.1 billion budget gap through a combination of cuts, debt restructuring and cash reserves, plus an extra $80 million in new property taxes, according to a CPS news release.

CPS Chief Financial Officer Ginger Ostro said that most of the property tax money will come from "new property and timing," and that the average homeowner would see only a $19 jump in his or her property taxes.

The budget also assumes $480 billion in state aid for teacher pensions, which isn't certain to be delivered, Claypool said. The Illinois State Senate passed a bill last week that would cover CPS pension payments in exchange for a two-year statewide property tax freeze, but that bill will likely need to be tweaked in order to secure support from the House and Gov. Bruce Rauner, according to Catalyst Chicago.

If the state doesn't come through with the money by the end of 2015, Claypool said, the district will be "forced to close the gap with even deeper cuts."

During Monday's conference call, Claypool repeatedly slammed Springfield for the state's "pitiful" contribution to the city's flagging teacher pensions. Illinois sends Chicago $31 per student to cover the city's pension costs, compared with $2,266 per student in the rest of the state, Claypool said.

“Chicago’s students are making real progress. ... Yet all that hard-earned progress is threatened by a state budget crisis that's forcing our district to pay pension costs no one else in the state is being asked to pay,” Claypool said.

Claypool also added that bankruptcy is "not on our radar in any way, shape or form" as a way out of the budget crisis.

During the conference call, Claypool also took a moment to respond to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis's threat to call a strike among stalled contract negotiations. CPS had asked teachers to pay toward 9 percent of their own pension funds, instead of the current 2 percent, which forces the district to pick up the other 7.

"Teachers have earned their pensions and we want to protect them, but saving pensions at the expense of students is not acceptable," Claypool said. "Our goal is to protect both, and we can't do that without teachers pitching in their share of pension costs alongside the state and the district."

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