Chicago Schools to Gut Central Administration in Layoff Proposal

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The long-anticipated job cuts for employees of the Chicago Public Schools have been announced — and the surprise is that the cuts will affect “central office and administrative staff,” not teachers.

The objective of the layoffs is to reduce expenses and then borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to lessen the chance that classrooms will face cuts because of a budget gap of $480 million, writes The Chicago Tribune’s Juan Perez, Jr.

“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,” district CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement.

According to Emily Bittner, a spokesperson for the CPS, the district’s intention was to issue a statement on Thursday about Friday morning meetings, then release a broad overview of the job cuts Friday morning.

Perez writes that the memo is another example of how Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration tries to control the information given to reporters and the public. When news is released on Friday, late in the day, the time for reporting is reduced and stories are published on the weekend when people are less likely to be following news reports.

Officials at CPS state they are making approximately $80 million in cuts that are not involved with classrooms. About half of that amount is coming from the cuts at the district’s central office. For the majority of CPS’ budget shortfall, the district is asking the state to come to the rescue.

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said she understood the cuts even though any loss of funding is tough.

“Well, I have heard it and I think the signal is they’re gonna try to keep cuts as far from the classroom as possible,” Lewis said.

According to Tom Negovan and Judy Wang of WGN-TV, if the Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union are on the same page, that is a positive sign for public schools.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool made comments concerning the plan on Thursday. He said his office, the teachers union, and lawmakers in Springfield are working together to solve the budget crisis. He asked that everyone do their parts as CPS streamlines administrative duties so that no cuts reach within the city’s classrooms.

Claypool continued by stating that since CPS accounts for 20% of state enrollment, but only gets 15% of the funding, the other 5% should be used to get reduce or eliminate the CPS budget gap.

NBC Chicago reports that over 220 positions in the Central Office and its workforce of administrators will constitute the employees who will be laid off.

One employee, Yerick Kaslov, a processor of magnet school applications, said the cuts will affect classrooms. He added there was no way it couldn’t change classrooms.

The announcement comes after a proposal by Republican legislators that would put CPS under state control and allow the debt-burdened district to declare bankruptcy. The governor backs the plan, but Emanuel is vigorously opposed to it.

For those who received a pink slip on Friday, the layoffs brought up emotions of anger and sadness. Gail Ratliff, one of the employees who was cut, explained that she could get another job, but after 26 years of service, sometimes a “thank you” is not enough, reports CBS Chicago. Of the employees who were laid off, 57 were given the opportunity to apply for 35 other positions.

“In years past, which is a problem we inherited, the central office was a focus of where resources went, not the classroom. We’ll walk you through all the line items, so you have them, and we’re going to continue to make cuts,” Emanuel said.