What's next for CPS, teachers after strike ends?

September 14, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Throughout the negotiations, the CTU was fully aware of a plan to close or consolidate nearly one fourth of the city's public schools. While the controversial strategy could save Chicago Public Schools hundreds of millions of dollars, education experts say it also could mean the loss of thousands of teaching jobs.

The list of likely-to-be-closed CPS schools includes nearly 150 buildings which are both under-utilized and underperforming academically. Most are older schools in black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

"To close the school down, that would be horrible. It would be horrible, because a lot of the kids in the area go to this school ," said Marquita Walton, CPS parent.

"Schools are hearts of their communities. Schools are anchors and people do not want you to close their neighborhood schools," said Sarah Karp, Catalyst Magazine writer.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel has given his school board the green light to put politics aside and to begin closures and consolidations. It is a major part of the district's strategy to reduce its deficit and pay for the new teachers' union contract.

"That's where you're going to have to get the savings in order to accommodate some of the salary increases that are being talked, about an average of 4 percent over four years or 16 percent," said Laurence Msall, Civic Federation.

But what to do with teachers to be laid off because their schools will be closed or replaced by non-union privately owned charter schools.

"I would bet at least you're talking initially about at least 5,000 … that could be laid off. We're talking over a period of years, not immediately," said Karp.

"We're terrified. We want to be able to do our job, we want to serve the kids and if that is their cost-saving measure we don't need to be dumped to the wayside. We're not the trash, we're the teachers," said Rhonda McLeod, CPS teacher.

Mayor Emanuel also wanted principals -- not the union contract -- to have authority over which teachers are hired in their buildings. The union has insisted teachers laid off for no fault of their own be re-hired first.

Educators around the country are waiting to see how negotiators in Chicago resolve the issue.

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