CPS directs schools to prepare for layoffs following contract rejection

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Tensions grow between CPS, teachers union
Chicago Public Schools officials announced $100 million in new budget cuts Tuesday that could include teacher layoffs.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools officials announced $100 million in new budget cuts Tuesday that could include teacher layoffs.

Following the rejection of a contract between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool is directing schools to prepare reduction plans to save money.

CTU's 40-member bargaining team rejected the contract offer in a unanimous vote Monday.

Claypool said school support staff will likely bear the brunt of the layoffs - teaching assistants, clerks and other administrative roles. A letter to CTU President Karen Lewis from Claypool says the workforce cuts will save $50 million.

Claypool says he is out of options, standing with other school executives to announce layoffs and pension deductions for teachers. They said the actions are needed to address the system's budget deficit.

It would be up to each principal to determine the most feasible cuts for their school, Claypool said. Claypool said CPS will do its "very best" to avoid teacher layoffs.

Claypool said they will also begin deducting 7 percent from all CTU members' checks as soon as possible due to an inability to meet the pension pickup for teachers. Claypool says the schools will save $130 million with that action.

Lewis on Tuesday called the district's moves 'retaliatory tactics' saying everyone who works in CPS is facing a "clear and present danger." She called the district's plan an "austerity agenda."

Lewis and CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey said the cuts CPS set out Tuesday in response to the rejection weren't cuts in the contract.

Lewis called the cuts an "act of war" and expects the union will rally against CPS and the "bankers who are siphoning off millions" and announced a demonstration at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and LaSalle and Adams.

Lewis admitted the current administration have inherited a lack of trust from the prior administrations, but stressed that some of the administrators are the same.

Lewis said the deal CTU rejected would have pushed out 2,200 experienced educators and would've impacted black and Latino members most. Lewis claims the contract would also have increased class sizes to 45-50 student class sizes

Ill. Gov. Bruce Rauner says he is now planning action to oversee Chicago Public Schools.

"What's he gonna take us over with? He has no budget. He has no authority. Please don't pay attention to the ravings of a madman," Lewis said of Rauner.

Sharkey and Lewis say Rauner doesn't know anything about running public schools.

"He has a charter school named after him," Sharkey said.

Regardless of what happens, parents are afraid of the impact on their children.

"Anytime you have a cut it's going to affect the education of the kids," said Bill Perales, a parent.

"I don't know where all the money is going but it's not going to schools," said Fred Cosby, a parent.

What's Next?

The I-Team has learned that both sides are preparing for two important, separate meetings Wednesday, both of which could define whether there is a resolution, an eventual strike or a move by the state to takeover CPS operations.

The decision to reject the latest contract offer was a vote by just 40 of CTU's 27,000 members, assigned to this group within the union. They're known as the "big bargaining team."

But when all of the bargaining team members stood up against the contract proposal, it wasn't necessarily the end of it.

On Wednesday at a union hall on the South Side at a regular meeting of the CTU's House of Delegates - nearly 800 teachers union members - could vote to override that big bargaining team.

There would have to be a motion for a fresh vote on the rejected contract and, of course, no guarantee it would pass.

Chicago Public Schools officials will also try to find some money to operate.

"We're going back to the bond market tomorrow to raise the necessary resources to restore the financial stability of the district. We have good momentum with our investors," Claypool said.

With inexplicable optimism, school officials say they will try to secure the full $875 million from bond sales, a borrowing plan that had to be scrapped last week when bond houses jacked up interest rates in response to shaky CPS finances.

It isn't at all clear why the Chicago Public Schools would face better bond rates Wednesday after a teachers contract settlement was just stalled.