CHICAGO — After Chicago Public Schools announced employees would be forced to take three unpaid days off this fiscal year, the teachers union announced the move "all but assures" teachers will go on strike.
In a news release Thursday that also announced there will be no school on Good Friday, March 25, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said, “It’s never easy to furlough employees, but our priority was to preserve instructional time for our students while preserving year-end cash and continuing to chip away at our budget gap.”
While the district said the unpaid furloughs would save $30 million, the Chicago Teachers Union said it amounts to a 1.6 percent pay cut for teachers and strongly denounced the move.
In a statement, union president Karen Lewis said the announcement “only strengthens our resolve to shut down the school district on April 1."
In ongoing contract negotiations, CPS has said it would cut its 7 percent pension pickup, and added together, the teachers union said that amounts to an 8.6 percent pay cut for teachers.
Pointing to the district's decision to extend the school year by 10 days in 2012, Lewis said, "They should have never extended the school year in the first place if they couldn’t afford to do so.”
The first unpaid furlough day will be March 25, the district announced. There will be no school on that day for employees or students.
School-based employees will have two professional development days (days that students are not in class) converted to furloughs on June 22 and June 23.
Central and network office staff will be furloughed on April 21 and April 22 during CPS spring break, the district said.
CPS chose Good Friday as the first furlough day because 8,000 staff members planned to take the day off, and some principals already had planned all-day assemblies in the school auditorium in order to deal with the staff shortage, according to the CPS news release.
Claypool said the move was necessary due to a CPS budget shortfall amid the Illinois budget crisis:
“Unfortunately, as he’s made clear in recent weeks, Gov. Rauner is more interested in forcing bankruptcy and taking over our schools than in addressing the unequal funding issues that hurt districts like ours across the state. We know we cannot cut our way to a solution. However, the governor’s inaction means we must continue to cut costs and ease our cash flow, so we can do what’s necessary to ensure our classrooms are protected and our students’ progress is uninterrupted,” he said.
The furloughs come after a series of cuts for this school year, including midyear budget cuts announced in February and 62 layoffs announced Monday.
The district last implemented furlough days in 2011, when then-schools chief Ron Huberman ordered hundreds of nonunion employees to take unpaid days off, according to news accounts at the time.
This story is developing. Refresh for updates.
• (Feb. 10, 2016) What Do Chicago Public Schools Budget Cuts Mean For Your Child?
• (Jan. 22, 2016) CPS Central Office Layoffs; 'These Cuts Are Painful,' Claypool Says
• (Nov. 12, 2015) CPS Cuts Mean 5th, 6th Grade Athletes Won't Get To Play for Championship
• (Aug. 10, 2015) CPS Announces New Cuts, Layoffs in 2016 Budget
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