How will Chicago pay for plan to hire 477 teachers?

July 25, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is very proud of the fact that Chicago public school children will get a longer school day. However, he has yet to identify where the money will come from for the extra teachers.

In addition, there is concern, once the money is earmarked, there won't be enough to pay for the new hires next year.

In a show of solidarity -- despite Tuesday's announcement of hiring more teachers in exchange for a longer school day -- hundreds of Chicago public school teachers marched Wednesday in front of CPS headquarters while the school board held its monthly meeting inside.

Teacher salaries and work hours are far from being worked out in current contract talks with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Also unknown is how a cash-strapped school district can pay for 477 extra teachers. The new hires are expected to cost CPS $50 million.

"We will find the resources to achieve what we need to do, both for our taxes, but for the biggest winner, our school children" Emanuel said.

But Mayor Emanuel refused to say where the resources will come from.

The Chicago Teachers Union has a suggestion.

"I would suggest increase that the big increase in funding, which the charter schools were not able to get through the state legislature, but which they turned around and got through the CPS voluntarily, is something they might want to look at," said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

The mayor says he will not take money away from charter schools.

While Emanuel says the source of the funding will be worked out during contract negotiations, education experts say there is no guarantee next year.

"It's unclear how CPS plans to continue funding the teacher pensions, funding everything else the district's responsible for when its revenue keeps declining and the costs keep going up," said Rebecca Harris of Catalyst Chicago, an independent news journal that reports on school reform.

Harris says it is likely the 477 new positions will be vulnerable in the future.

For this year, the mayor says the money for the extra teachers will be worked out in contract negotiations. He would not say what will happen next year. However, he did say the teachers' contract will be a multi-year one.

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