District U-46 to lay off 732 teachers

March 16, 2010 2:52:31 PM PDT
Tight budget cuts in Illinois' second-largest school district will cost 1,000 employees their jobs.

District U-46 serves more than $40,000 students in 11 communities. On Tuesday morning at the U-46 District Administration Building in Elgin, school officials gave principals pink slips to pass out to 1,000 employees-- 732 of whom are teachers. The others who will be laid off are bus drivers and teacher assistants.

"It's really sad. But I don't understand how we can bailout all the banks but we can't bailout the schools, you know? It makes no sense to me," said Sarah Suh, District U-46 teacher assistant.

Classes next year will be larger in the district and programs will be cut to fill a $44 million hole. The board voted unanimously Monday night on the plan. They blame the cuts on a lack of state funding and new revenue.

"I think our administration has been frugal. They've cut what they can prior to this. It's like us with our checkbook. If people don't pay us when they're supposed to, we have difficulties. And the state is not meeting their obligation. They also need to take a deep look at fixing school funding across the board," said David Smiley, Elgin High School principal.

District U-46-- which is the second largest in the state-- operates 40 elementary schools, eight middle schools and six high schools.

"I've experienced three or four significant cuts during that time but this one is much deeper and the frightening thing is you can't see the backside of this one," said Smiley.

The attorney who represents the district talked told ABC 7 he still has hope that some jobs can be saved.

"If state funding comes in for us we can bring teachers back and can adjust for the state funding. Or lack of state funding," said Pat Broncato, chief legal officer

"I've heard that they want to cut the arts. And those are so important. My daughter loves band, I can't imagine her not doing it," said Amber Schultz, parent

Students have heard about the cuts. Many teachers have already told students they will not be returning next school year.

"My photography teacher is getting fired so I was actually looking forward to having him next year because immaterial to have a career as a photographer, so I was looking forward to being with him because he bonds with us," said Marcos Castellanos, student.

In support for the teachers receiving pink slips at Elgin High School, some teachers wore pink to work. The cuts go into effect in the fall.

School leaders maintain that this is a state funding issue and that they have spent money appropriately. But none of them is saying if there is support for Governor Quinn's plan to raise the income tax.