Presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois

Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Bryd-Bennett announced approximately 1,150 Chicago Teachers Union members are being laid off. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

CPS announces more than 1,000 staff layoffs

Before releasing its budget recommendations for the 2014-15 school year or enrollment projections, Chicago Public Schools announced staff layoffs on Thursday for 550 teachers and 600 other school staffers.

Added to the 147 staffers (including 76 teachers) who already got pink slips at three schools confirmed for a turnaround, 625 teachers and 671 other school employees are now looking for work.

CPS began notifying approximately 1,150 employees on Thursday that their schools would not retain them in the fall due to falling projected enrollment. That’s about half the number who got pink-slipped last year in the wake of a historic number of school closings, and district officials said on Thursday they believed that like last year, about 60 percent would be rehired at other CPS schools.

“The staffing changes are driven by declining student enrollment at each of the affected schools,” said schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Since the district doles out a set amount of money per child enrolled, fewer students lead to budget cuts, she said. The 550 teachers, she said, represent the lowest number of annual teacher layoffs in the past five years. And some help has been available for schools who have asked for it, she said.

The Chicago Teachers Union said the layoffs also mark the fourth time in the past five years in which more than 1,000 CPS employees lost their jobs in the summer. All of the teachers and at least 250 of the other staffers are CTU members.

The CTU decried the cuts as a continuation of “the destruction and decimation of neighborhood schools,” and blamed policies championed by the mayor and his appointed school board.

“There are an ever-increasing number of charter schools siphoning students out of public schools and contributing to a system of dysfunction and instability that leads parents to seek other options for their children,” union president Karen Lewis said in a statement. “This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his handpicked Board.

“Do we want ‘Star Wars’ museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?” she asked.

Lewis said the low level of funding per student forces principals to choose between keeping veteran teachers or libraries.

“Current budgets are so low that schools can’t keep both,” she said.

Telephone calls began Thursday to those getting the bad news, said Alicia Winckler, the CPS official in charge of hiring. About 171 schools had no layoffs at all, she said.

Winckler estimated about 1,780 open teaching vacancies for the fall, 1,420 of which are full-time jobs. Laid-off teachers can apply for those positions which opened due to retirements and transfers, she said. She couldn’t say how many non-teaching jobs might come open, but said the impacted jobs spanned 50 job descriptions such as clerks, part-time security and classroom assistants. Job fairs will be held later in the summer, and hiring could begin as early as next week, district spokesman Joel Hood said.

As of Thursday afternoon, CPS would not provide a list of affected schools or positions nor would they provide a breakdown of elementary schools versus high schools, saying only that 1/3 of district-operated schools were affected.

“Our first priority right now is making sure we demonstrate and carry out our professional and respectful and empathetic communication with our teachers,” Winckler said. “We want to do that to honor them and make sure they are the first ones who hear the message. We’ll do that and then we’ll follow up as soon as those communications are complete to provide the list of schools.”

Byrd-Bennett also wouldn’t use the word “layoffs,” calling it “misleading” because of available job openings.

“That’s why I think it’s misleading semantically to say that these are ‘layoffs,’ these 550, and that’s why I use the language very deliberately ‘impacted’ they are impacted as a result of SBB (student-based budgeting), but there are these positions, 1,780 across the district which these teachers can and probably will apply to.”



RELATED: CTU report says CPS broke promises on benefits of school closings