If legislators and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner do not come up with the $480 million missing from Chicago Public Schools’ current budget, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool says after Christmas, thousands of teachers could get pink slips. The Chicago Teachers Union advised its members to begin saving money for a potential “protracted strike” next year. The union says members will take a preliminary strike vote by the end of this week.
Lauren Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Sun-Times says CTU President Karen Lewis asked her members to begin saving 25% of their pay. Lewis was the leader of a seven-day strike in 2012, the first strike in 25 years. Claypool warned that CPS is on the verge of having to slash school budgets, lay off teachers, and borrow more money in spite of having “junk bond” status.
The layoffs would increase class sizes and, according to Claypool, deciding on the layoffs and how to reassemble classrooms will begin in December.
“We will be meeting with our principals sometime in December to begin planning for reduced budgets in the second semester,” Claypool said. “Those would be executed around Feb. 1 at the beginning of the second semester, which is Feb. 8.”
Republican State Senate leader Christine Radongo remains dubious that CPS even needs the extra money. She said there were not enough details and half a billion dollars “won’t happen.” Charles Thomas reports for WLS-TV Chicago that Lewis stated schools cannot be “blown up” and those in charge have to figure out a way to get through this.
The CTU and school board are in the process of working through a new teachers’ contract. State law requires a 75% vote in the affirmative from the total union membership for a strike to be authorized.
The additional almost $500 million is still in a budget log-jam with Rauner. Claypool said the CTU focused on politics and not on the state’s teachers and students.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey says lobbying is a “short-term” fix since pension reductions and no real solutions in the CPS budget are inevitable. Sharkey says teachers will be occupying the banks that, in the opinion of the CTU, are not being fair with the school district.
Lewis stated that reduced budgets and reductions to special education and other programs were putting pressure on teachers. She asked why class sizes are increasing and teaching resources cannot be purchased, yet multi-million-dollar charter operations continue to be opened.
Claypool updated his announcement on Monday by stating that pink slips could go out in January and layoffs could begin in February.
Gov. Rauner, at a meeting in Bloomington, said that “misguided state policies” were the reason CPS was having financial difficulties. Juan Perez, Jr. of the Chicago Tribune reports that Rauner also predicted that pressure on Chicago might lead to a state budget compromise in the first part of January.