CPS braces for possible teacher layoffs amid budget battle

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
CPS braces for possible teacher layoffs
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan's decision to cancel House sessions in Springfield this week may move Chicago closer to teacher layoffs.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan's decision to cancel House sessions in Springfield this week may move Chicago Public Schools closer to teacher layoffs. The Chicago Teachers Union has said layoffs may bring a teachers strike.

CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson is bracing herself for the possibility of teacher layoffs when the district's second semester begins on February 8.

"Any cuts to the classroom would be a sad case for Chicago Public Schools. We hope not to have to do that," Jackson said.

Without half a billion dollars in state aid or an agreement with teachers to pay more of their own pension costs, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has threatened for months to layoff thousands.

"Ultimately, Springfield is going to have a big say in whether we can continue the academic gains we've had in the last four years," Claypool said on Sept. 8, 2015.

The Democratic-controlled Illinois House - embroiled in a budget dispute with the governor - has delayed its first 2016 meeting until January 27.

"Sends a message to me that there's not a sense of urgency on behalf of the House Democrats to try to resolve the budget," said State Rep. Jim Durkin, House Minority Leader.

If Claypool makes good on his threat, layoff notices would have to be delivered by January 18, the required 21 days before the second semester begins.

A district spokeswoman remained hopeful for a union deal: "We are negotiating in good faith on an agreement that would prevent mid-year layoffs."

On dwindling hope for Springfield cash, she added: "We will never give up on Springfield."

"Obviously we're going to have to make tough decisions if Springfield doesn't act very soon," Jackson said.

Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel accused Governor Bruce Rauner with holding Chicago Public School children "hostage."

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno called the possibility of CPS layoffs "horrible" but blamed Emanuel's Democrats unwillingness to negotiate the larger state budget.

"They are saying we're just going to wait you out until you just raise taxes and send the money to the City of Chicago. We're willing to help but they need to help the rest of the State," Radogno said.

With state aid unlikely, CPS confirmed a plan to borrow money as part of its second semester financial strategy: high interest loans to a district with a "junk bond" credit rating.