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CPS Layoffs Revealed; 'These Cuts Are Painful,' Claypool Says

By Ted Cox | January 22, 2016 9:45am | Updated on January 22, 2016 7:18pm
 Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool is preparing for what he called
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool is preparing for what he called "painful layoffs to the Central Office and administrative staff."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

THE LOOP — Chicago Public Schools officials Friday announced extensive layoffs in the district's central offices, saying they were trying to keep necessary cuts out of classrooms.

The district said it was cutting 433 administrative positions, including laying off 227 employees Friday. Some 180 vacant positions were to be eliminated, and the district claimed a net reduction of 61 positions in the second half of last year.

"We are prioritizing the immediate needs of our schools and moving forward with painful layoffs to the Central Office and administrative staff," CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said in a statement.

"There's no doubt these cuts are painful," he said.

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel admits,
Mayor Rahm Emanuel admits, "The Central Office was bloated."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Even so, the district claimed only $45 million in savings from the layoffs — $32 million this year — in the face of a $480 million shortfall in the current budget and a projected $1.1 billion deficit next year.

Among the positions laid off Friday were director of school culture & climate ($135,000 salary), senior manager of network support ($132,000) and chief of strategic school support ($150,000).

Vacant positions being eliminated included chief accountability officer ($175,000), chief financial officer ($180,000), chief of media relations ($150,000) and several positions in the district's networks all with salaries above $100,000.

At least 32 positions in the "instructional supports: specially designed instruction" department have been cut, according to CPS. Diverse learner supports and services staff will be reduced by at least 11 jobs, and early childhood development will lose at least 10 jobs.

The information and technological services department will be reduced by 17 positions, according to a breakdown of the cuts CPS released late Friday.


"We do not take these actions lightly, but as we ask others to do their part, we are doing everything in our power to put our fiscal house in order," Claypool added. "Every department at CPS will have to do more with less, as we streamline administrative functions in an effort to prevent cuts from reaching our classroom doors. These cuts will consolidate some functions and challenge the district to continue delivering services."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel endorsed the move at a Friday event at the Union League Club.

"We are gonna make Central Office cuts and reforms so we don't have to impact the classroom, where we're making significant educational gains for children," Emanuel said. "We have a lot of work to do to right the financial books, but it should not come at the expense of what teachers and students are doing."

Positions eliminated in the second half of last year included chief of education effectiveness ($165,000), chief of college and career success ($175,000), chief community and family engagement officer ($150,000), chief innovation and incubation officer ($165,000), chief of strategic school support services ($150,000), deputy chief of schools in that office ($136,000), director of strategy management ($140,000), chief of staff in the Talent Office ($165,000) and several more network positions valued at over $100,000.

"Amid these challenges, we are negotiating with the Chicago Teachers Union leadership on a multi-year agreement that would prevent midyear classroom teacher layoffs and give teachers a raise over the life of the contract," Claypool added. "Both parties agree that these good-faith negotiations are ongoing and productive."

Union President Karen Lewis echoed the optimism Thursday during an event at Northeastern Illinois University, in which she called Gov. Rauner's plan to take over CPS and file for bankruptcy "delusional."

Claypool renewed calls for the state to boost its funding for CPS, claiming the district has 20 percent of the state's students, but receives only 15 percent of its education allocation, while Chicagoans pay for state teacher pensions even as the state does not contribute to Chicago's teacher pensions. "This inequity must end," Claypool said.

Some 57 of the 227 layoffs announced Friday were reported to be on teams being downsized, and were declared eligible to apply for 35 other positions, still a net reduction of 192 jobs, CPS pointed out. After Claypool took control of the district midway through last year, CPS closed 108 positions before Jan. 15, but added 47, for the net reduction of 61.

In the fall, Claypool threatened that thousands of teachers would have to be laid off if the state didn't approve a budget that included an extra $500 million for CPS. The teachers union responded by threatening a strike, with 96 percent of teachers voting to support a strike in December.

Claypool has since softened his approach, and prepared the district for more extensive borrowing to make up the budget shortfall, along with cuts aimed at the administration and bureaucracy.

According to CPS, departments targeted in Friday's layoffs included procurement, law, technology, facilities, diverse learners and payroll.

At the same time, Gov. Bruce Rauner has threatened to seize control of CPS, a proposal state Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) immediately declared "is not going to happen."

“As we start the second semester, it is critical to keep as many resources in the classroom as possible to protect our students’ academic gains," Claypool said.

Emanuel granted that CPS has boasted of cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the school bureaucracy in the past, going back to Mayor Richard M. Daley. Yet he called it "a problem we inherited," adding, "The Central Office was bloated."

In years past "the Central Office was the focus of where resources went, not the classroom," Emanuel said, and he applauded the additional cuts CPS planned.

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