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CPS Slashing 62 Jobs, 17 of Them Teachers, to Meet $85M Budget Cut

By Ted Cox | February 29, 2016 2:10pm
 CPS CEO Forrest Claypool called the layoffs
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool called the layoffs "unfortunate for our principals, teachers and — most of all — our students."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

THE LOOP — Blaming $85 million in "unprecedented" midyear budget cuts on the state budget impasse, the head of Chicago Public Schools announced 62 layoffs Monday, including 17 teachers.

"The fact that these cuts needed to happen in the first place is unfortunate for our principals, teachers and — most of all — our students,” CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said.

"Our objective is to secure fair funding for our students, bring Illinois up from last in the country for education funding and work with Springfield to start treating students in poverty fairly, so our students get the education they deserve," Claypool said. "These painful cuts are not what we want to do, but they are critical to keeping our school doors open."

 Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey accused CPS of
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey accused CPS of "selling wolf tickets" in threatening 5,000 layoffs and then making 17 teacher cuts.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Calling the midyear cuts "unprecedented," the district said it worked with principals to determine the cuts for each school. According to CPS, principals were instructed "to do everything possible to prevent teacher layoffs," and many had already budgeted ahead for a worst-case scenario.

Yet among the 62 layoffs announced Monday — 43 full-time positions and 19 part-time — 17 were teachers.

Although dramatically reduced from the 5,000 layoffs Claypool threatened last fall, the cuts were not welcomed by the Chicago Teachers Union.

"Midyear layoffs, even of a single teacher, is no way to run a school system," said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the union. He called the huge threatened layoffs, followed by more "reasonable" cuts, a familiar district tactic — "selling wolf tickets" — and credited the "ingenuity of Chicago Public Schools principals" with minimizing the damage in classrooms.

The cuts were expected to be extended into the next school year at a full saving of $120 million as the district deals with what it estimates to be a $1.1 billion budget deficit.

The district was able to minimize the extent of the cuts through $41 million in additional state funding earmarked for students in poverty. Thus, schools with a higher percentage of poor students actually fared better in Monday's layoffs than schools in more well-to-do areas.

A full list of school-by-school cuts was expected to be released later Monday.

Charter schools will also feel the sting, with a total of $13.8 million cut from their budgets. Those cuts will be imposed in their fourth-quarter payment from CPS.

CPS budgeted for $480 million in additional state funding this school year that it has not received because of the budget impasse. Claypool originally threatened 5,000 layoffs last fall if the funding was not forthcoming, prompting teachers to vote to authorize a strike. Claypool made deep cuts at the district's central offices in January before moving ahead with principals to designate more positions to be slashed.

Sharkey also threatened a possible immediate teacher strike if CPS stops paying 7 percent of pension contributions for teachers, which it has threatened to do. That would constitute a 7 percent cut in take-home pay for teachers, he said.

As it stands, a labor mediator has to conclude a fact-finding report on contract talks between the union and CPS before teachers could go on strike, with May mentioned as the earliest possible walkout.

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