Court: CPS tenured teachers can't be fired

October 5, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Last summer, more than 700 tenured teachers were fired. Now, a judge has ruled that their layoffs were handled improperly.

Some teachers said they feel vindicated by the judge's decision; some say they feel like they got their respect back.

"I feel honored. I feel that I have my dignity back. This is all about tenure meaning something," said laid off teacher Pat Gerard.

This legal fight has been going on for months between district officials and the union, which filed a lawsuit contending the firings were unjust.

Almost 1,300 teachers were laid off before the school year began so the district could plug a budget hole. About 60 percent of the layoffs consisted of tenured teachers who had substantial protection rights under their contracts.

Teachers say they believe CPS's tactics were unfair because the decisions were not made based on seniority.

"First of all, we should be given the opportunity to get better trained in what it is that we're doing. We're teachers. We know how to learn. We know how to work with students. We know how that whole process works. We should be given that opportunity. If we're so bad, then, OK. But just to summarily fire people supposedly because we were so bad. That was totally wrong," said laid off teacher Lourdes Guerrero.

Teachers argued they were fired without a hearing and denied due process. They were also furious over the impression that teachers were being fired because they were unsatisfactory.

Chicago Public Schools issued a statement saying it disagreed with aspects of the ruling, but the district is pleased that the court found that CPS is not required to restore positions eliminated as a result of budget cuts.

Although CPS was not mandated to restore all the eliminated positions, those laid off teachers will, under the judge's order, have a better chance of getting hired back. It also prohibits future, similar layoffs from taking place.

"It says that tenure is real. You can't just fire a teacher illegally," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union.

From a legal standpoint, there could be some remedies for laid off teachers. The judge has ordered both sides to come to an agreement on that within the next 30 days.

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