Job Cuts Follow School Closures, Deficits in Chicago, Philadelphia

The decision to close 49 elementary schools in Chicago has now led to layoff notices being sent out to more than 660 district employees. That includes 420 teachers, many of whom have tenure but qualify for a layoff due to an unsatisfactory or satisfactory performance rating. The most recent union contract only protects members who are rated either excellent or superior.

With layoff notices going out, it appears that an ongoing controversy over the closure of schools that district officials are claiming were undersubscribed is finally simmering down, although additional cuts are expected in the coming year to allow Chicago Public Schools to close a budget deficit. Although an additional 600 teachers are qualified for transfers to other schools, it is unclear if enough spaces will be found to accommodate them all.

The final layoff tally might not be available until late in the summer when the principals finalize their staffing plans for the coming fall.

The district also Friday announced layoffs at five underperforming schools slated for overhauls, known as turnarounds. In an effort to raise the performance level of those schools, almost all employees are let go and new staff is hired.

CPS said 192 employees, 125 of them teachers, will lose their jobs as a result of those turnaround decisions, which, like the closings, were approved in May.

The Chicago Teachers Union has expressed concerns that budget cuts will result in additional layoffs.

All is not lost for teachers who receive layoff notices in the coming weeks. According to the Chicago Tribune, the district has a process for teachers who wish to find new jobs within CPS and the typical re-hire rate is about 60%. However, that might change this year as the $1 billion budget deficit means many departments are looking to shed workers rather than hire them.

CPS isn’t the only urban school district sending out layoff notices this month. On Friday, Philadelphia, which is dealing with its own budget crisis, announced that it will shed 76 district office employees last Friday which is expected to provide savings of nearly $32 million.

This week’s round of Philadelphia job losses is particularly modest in light of the one announced earlier last week. Then, 3,783 district employees – including teachers – were informed that they might not have a place in the district come September.

Combined, the job losses represent a 19.9 percent decrease in the 19,530-member workforce. As a result of the latest cutbacks, there will be fewer people to respond to the parents’ help line, field calls about tardy school buses, or handle students’ records. The district will end driver education and the live streaming of School Reform Commission meetings.