Somehow, it seems as if the other shoe has dropped. Chicago Public Schools said two weeks ago that 663 employees at schools the district is closing don’t qualify to move to new schools and were laid off, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports the same numbers but adds them up a little differently. A total of about 850 employees were actually laid off. From closing schools, 420 were teachers, 110 were paraprofessionals, and 133 were bus aides and part-timers. When added up, that comes to the 663 figure reported in the Tribune. The additional 192 laid-off staffers come from the district’s five “turnaround” schools, including 125 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals, 20 bus aides and part-timers, and 27 clerks, custodians, and security staffers.
The district formerly employed 23,290 teachers, and a total of 545 teachers were laid off in this round of cuts, the Sun-Times noted.
The district is trying to close a budget deficit of nearly $1 billion for the 2013-14 school year. To help in that effort, the district laid off about 100 staffers at the district’s headquarters and hopes to save about $52 million in operations and administrative costs next year.
Details of the budget will be approved by the end of August, and although the district has released individual school budgets to principals, details of any proposed budget plan have not yet been released to the public.
Pension debacle makes Illinois a laughing stock
Earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blamed the school system’s budget deficit on the Illinois General Assembly, which he said has failed to act on fixing the underfunding problem with the state’s five pension plans, the largest of which is the Teachers’ Retirement System. About 45 percent of the school district’s projected budget deficit is tied to pension liabilities.
“I went to Springfield,” the Sun-Times quoted him as saying about a trip to the state’s capital in May 2012. “And I said, ‘If we don’t reform our pension, there are gonna be some very difficult choices to be made. I warned everybody. … I said, ‘This is a critical decision.’ … [Lawmakers] said, ‘Not now. We won’t deal with this.’ Small problems became big problems. When we all debate the choices around pensions, that’s exactly what’s happening.”
The mayor said he wouldn’t comment on budget decisions now in the works at individual schools, since the district has more than 600 schools, including the apparent plan to charge students who want to take a seventh class during the school day at Whitney Young Magnet High School. The school said two weeks ago it might have to charge students up to $500 for the class to help reduce the impact of cuts to the school’s budget, which reportedly total more than $1 million.
For a clearer understanding of CPS’s budget problems and the pension fund’s part of it, see the excellent article by Whet Moser in Chicago Magazine, here.