Chicago school board approves teacher layoffs

June 15, 2010 (CHICAGO)

On Tuesday morning, dozens of teachers staged a very vocal protest outside an emergency board meeting.

School officials say the cuts are necessary to help close a $600 million budget deficit.

The school board also approved an option to increase class sizes to 35 students. One veteran board member said it was the most difficult vote he has made in 15 years. But the teachers union and some parents say it was a vote that did not have to be taken. Many believe the school board has others options to close the budget gap.

It's a fight that is far from over. Teachers and parents were hoping their protests in front of Chicago Public Schools' headquarters would stop the school board from considering layoffs and class size increases. The board called an emergency meeting to address a multi million dollar budget deficit.

"The parents are very disappointed board that they're taking this action and that they're taking this action in this fashion," said Jonathon Goldman, Raise Your Hand Coalition.

"I am a first grade teacher. It's enough to work with 28 kids. And can you imagine having 35 little children that you have to pay attention to? My attention can't span that far to active first graders," said Mary Edmonds.

By a vote of 7-0, the school board voted to give CEO Ron Huberman the option to lay off 2,700 teachers and increase class sizes to 35 kids in order to fix the budget shortfall.

"No board member - so we are clear - is a proponent of 35 kids in a classroom," said Mary Richardson-Lowry, Chicago School Board president.

But the school board and Huberman say they must consider layoffs and class size increases if the state does not come up with more money and if the teachers union refuses to make any concessions.

"CPS has presented the unions with a menu of possible concessions over the course of the last six months that could help address the district's budget shortfall and avoid widespread layoffs and program cuts that hurt our kids," said Huberman.

Teachers are in the middle of a five year contract. The agreement calls for a 4-percent pay raise. Huberman says layoffs could be avoided if teachers decided to give up the raise or a portion of it. Out-going union president Marilyn Stewart says absolutely not while Stewart's replacement Karen Lewis says the issue will be discussed.

"Giving back anything does not solve their systemic funding problem. The books are a farce," said Marilyn Stewart, Chicago Teachers Union president.

"I will ask members to tell me what they want," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president-elect.

The teachers union wants to see the books. Teachers believe there is more in the budget, like consulting contracts, that can be cut before jobs and salaries. CPS CEO Ron Huberman says he has cut many of those contracts as well as hundreds of jobs in the central office.

Mayor Daley says the teachers union should blame the state lawmakers, not CPS.

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