CPS layoffs a 'bloodbath,' Chicago Teachers Union says

July 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The CPS employees - 1,075 support staff members and 1,036 teachers - will learn of their layoffs through phone calls from their principals. CPS confirmed the layoffs Thursday evening

This most recent round of layoffs comes one month after 850 CPS employees were laid off after 49 Chicago public schools closed.

CPS says the layoffs are mostly due to a $1 billion budget deficit driven by a $400 million increase in annual teacher pension payments. They say without pension reform in Springfield, the district has few options available to close the gaps.

The Chicago Teachers Union released a statement, "it is equally shameful that as CPS slashes school budgets, they have not offered one sound recommendation to resolve their 'budget crisis' other than attacking teachers, closing schools, disrupting communities and vilifying parents. Once, again the most vulnerable children are going to receive the least. This will impact every single student in our district."

CTU president Karen Lewis called the cuts a "bloodbath." The CTU plans to lobby the Chicago Board of Education to restore these jobs.

"We were hoping to get pension reform in Springfield this past session; that did not happen," Becky Carroll, CPS spokesperson, said.

"On average in recent years, we've seen more than 60 percent of our displaced teachers find positions elsewhere in the district," said Alicia Winckler, CPS human resources.

"I think mayoral control of the school board has ultimately been a disaster, and i think we need an elected school board now, a board that's responsive to the voices of the people here," said Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward.

Fioretti said he believes the city needs to look at new ways to fund public schools, like drawing on money from tax increment financing. He said he feels CPS blaming Springfield for the pension fiasco is just an excuse.

"I think we saw this coming, but now they found a convenient excuse to say, 'Oh, it's all because of the pension mess down in Springfield," Fioretti said.

"The pension crisis is no longer around the corner, it has arrived at our schools," Emanuel said in a statement. "With a billion dollar budget deficit, decreased enrollment and ballooning pension costs, CPS has been forced to make extremely difficult choices to put our school district in the best position to be successful next year and beyond. This is yet another painful reminder to Springfield that we need immediate pension relief, so we can give our kids the high quality education and opportunity they deserve to succeed in school and life."

At teachers union headquarters Friday, anger bubbled over.

"Don't tell us that there's no money in this city to educate our children. This is criminal," said Jeff Blackwell, CPS teacher.

Carson Elementary School art teacher Ruth Augspurger says she was notified of her layoff Friday by phone...

"I believe that every child should have the privilege to have the highest level of education," she said.

The mayor Friday declined to take reporters' questions.

"Let's come together and urge our General Assembly to focus on pension reform, bring us pension reform, so we can take this massive cost out of our system," said Jesse Ruiz, Chicago School Board V.P.

Pension costs account for $400 million or 40 percent of the $1 billion deficit CPS currently faces. And on Friday, the teachers union accused the mayor of using pensions to pass the buck.

"We resist the urge on the part of the administration of this city to blame teachers and to blame our pensions for the crisis," said Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union V.P.

Many tenured teachers who worked at the closed schools are still waiting to learn whether they'll be placed in a new school.

"We want answers. We need answers, and we want answers," said Anita Caballero, CPS teacher.

"We're at the point where it's difficult to keep cutting to the point where you don't impact the classroom. There's no question. This impacts the classroom. This impacts the quality of education we can provide our students," Ruiz said.

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