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Understaffed Chicago Schools Lays off 1,500 Teachers, Support Staff

By Robert Stitt

“Teacher compensation is a mandatory subject of bargaining and educators can determine to formally reject this demand and move to take a strike vote.” This from the Chicago Teachers’ Union as they continue to clash with the city over salaries and contributions.

The city wants the teachers to take what amounts to a pay cut, but the union says it will not accept a “decrease at a time when workloads have increased by more than 20 percent.”

Those who are at the low end of the pay scale may not be so happy with the union’s tough stand as 1,500 teachers and support staff are now being fired in the midst of the negotiations. The teachers want more money and a better deal when it comes to employer contributions, but the city says there is no way it can afford a penny more as it is already cutting $200 million to help offset a $1.1 billion budget deficit.

The laid off teachers are dumbfounded, since the schools are already understaffed.

With “only” 1,500 of the 41,500 employees (3.6 percent) being laid off, it is unlikely that the union is going to back down. They feel that the city has made poor budget choices and handed out huge service contracts to donors and friends, and this is what put them in this position.

Says the union, “Over the last four years, the Board has cut our district down to the bone while doling out lucrative, no-bid contracts to their politically connected consultants and school reform allies. If they are serious—truly serious—about resolving the CPS budget crisis, they would join with the CTU in its call for a variety of progressive revenue options, including TIF reforms, ending toxic swaps and calling for a fair tax so the wealthy can pay their share.”

The city holds to its claim that it is the ever-increasing pensions that are bankrupting the district and the teachers ought to cover more of the financial burden.

The teachers’ union used an African proverb to highlight the struggle. The proverb says when the elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. Teachers, students, parents and the communities they live in are being trampled upon.

The city says that the union is being short-sighted, noting that there is still another $500 million needed to cover pensions. They have asked the state for the money, but if it is not granted they will have to cut even more positions. Further, if the school system “does not find a way to fill the $500 million hole, the schools could close in November.”

When the schools close, the rest of the 41,500 employees may feel the pinch the 1,500 are feeling right now. Hmmm, something to think about.


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