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Chicago Public Schools To Layoff 1,400 Under Pension Payment Plan

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 1, 2015 4:10PM

Photo credit: Justin Carlson

After borrowing $1 billion to keep itself afloat and approving a massive $634 million pension payment at the eleventh hour Tuesday, Chicago Public Schools announced today it will axe some 1,400 jobs to pay for the payout.

Last week lawmakers in Springfield rejected a plan that would’ve postponed the pension payment until August, when CPS would’ve received regular financial assistance from the state. According to the Sun-Times, interim CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz said:

“As an immediate consequence of driving the district further into debt and our need to address the existing structural deficit — which is also driven by decades of pension neglect — CPS will make $200 million in cuts. As we have said, CPS could not make the payment and keep cuts away from the classroom, so while school will start on time, our classrooms will be impacted.”

The Chicago Teacher’s Union said it was “blindsided” by the announcement, and that it had no warning of the layoffs as recently as Tuesday. “These layoffs prove that the Board never intended to make the pension payment in good faith and that they are using this to justify more attacks on our classrooms,” said CTU President Karen Lewis in a statement. “Putting 1,400 people out of work is no way to balance a budget and resource our schools…These cuts are a result of a history of poor fiscal management by the Board of Education.”

A public schools spokesperson played semantics with Lewis' choice of words, telling NBC5 in a statement:

“CTU made a false claim tonight that CPS intends to lay off 1,400 educators. This is not true. The 1,400 affected positions include employees in the central office, operations and other programs.”

Officials say the payment addresses the immediate pension crisis, but still leaves out a long-term plan. Speaking on WTTW, Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund executive director Charles Burbridge said:

“This by no means ends the discussion of how pensions are funded for teachers at Chicago Public Schools…We are interested longer term about education funding because there’s really no pension funding solution without education funding solutions.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel placed at least part of the blame at the feet of the legislature in Springfield, pointing out that districts outside Chicago are subsidized $2,000 per student, while city districts receive $160, according to the Sun-Times.

“You’re not asking me about the graduation rate,” he said. “You’re not asking me about the test scores. You’re not asking me about attendance. You’re asking me about a pension payment. No other school district in the state of Illinois is asked about a pension payment.”