Huberman hopeful teachers will make concessions

July 28, 2010 2:49:54 PM PDT
With the start of classes just over a month away, Chicago Public Schools is still struggling with budget problems. The school board is trying to work with the teachers union to save jobs.

Chicago Public Schools remains close to $400 million in the red. While CPS CEO Ron Huberman announced a few weeks ago changes in state funding are enough to keep elementary class sizes the same, it is not enough to take teacher layoffs off the table. Huberman remains hopeful the teachers union will make concessions.

Teacher Jeanne Edmonson says -- on her 60th birthday -- she received her pink slip.

"I didn't have a choice, I was forced into retirement," said Edmonson.

The first round of Chicago Public Schools layoffs has begun because of a $370 million deficit. Over 1,000 teachers will lose their jobs unless, as Huberman says, teachers are willing to forgo a raise.

It is something Huberman has requested several times before and again Wednesday at the school board meeting.

"We are asking up to $100 million in benefit adjustments to save positions," said Huberman.

Huberman says non-union personnel have taken 21 furlough days, which equals a 7 percent pay cut. In her first school board meeting as the new Chicago teachers union president, Karen Lewis briefly sparred with Huberman over numbers.

But Huberman and Lewis quickly became cordial, knowing they must work together to work out a solution to save jobs.

"We invite to you the table to discuss cost saving ideas that we can come up with," said Huberman.

Lewis says her budget team is looking at the CPS budget to find $100 million in savings.

"We will work on our part, but I do have a problem with the fact that they keep coming back and asking us for money out of our pockets as opposed to you can find this money somewhere else," said Lewis.

And, so far, concessions are something some union members refuse to entertain.

"Using teacher raises to pay for teacher layoffs does nothing. We will continue to suffer with higher class sizes," said Lisa Levy, teacher.

The majority of the scheduled layoffs will affect high school teachers. High school class sizes will increase from 31 to 33 students. Many pink slips are also being handed out at the central office.

Teachers union president Karen Lewis says she has met with Ron Huberman three times to discuss the budget and will continue talk with him.


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