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CPS layoffs hit arts, specialty subjects hard, CTU says

Referring layoffs Chicago Public Schools teachers JacksPotter staff coordinator for Chicago Teachers Unisays: “Whthis means more than anything is thhuge

Referring to layoffs of Chicago Public Schools teachers, Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, says: “What this means more than anything is that a huge layer of students that transcends geography, race and class are going to see their education program disrupted in a serious and profound way." | Sun-Times files

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Updated: September 6, 2013 6:06AM

A clearer picture of the massive number of teachers pink-slipped from Chicago Public Schools this summer is emerging, with the Chicago Teachers Union reporting almost 19 percent of total teachers cut from subjects such as the arts, gym and library, and another 19 percent from bilingual and special education.

Of about 1,700 teacher positions lost, 98 taught visual or performing arts and 61 taught music. Gym teachers accounted for 75 jobs; librarians, 41; foreign languages, 27, and computers, 23, according to the CTU. The union says 250 special education and 75 bilingual teacher positions also were cut.

“What this means more than anything is that a huge layer of students that transcends geography, race and class are going to see their education program disrupted in a serious and profound way,” said CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter.

The union counted 100 positions of the total layoffshad been created for the “Full School Day,” one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s signature initiatives.

“We were promised a better day, not just a longer one, and that’s out the window,” Potter said. “And that means you’re seeing 98 art programs either very much reduced or eliminated.”

CPS put the number of layoffs in specialty areas — such as the arts, gym and library — at 257 instead of 325. Layoffs of special-ed and bilingual teachers number 197, not the union’s 325, CPS said. The lost longer day positions number 69, according to CPS, 31 of which were for enrichment subjects that aren’t mandatory.

The district laid off a total of 3,168 employees in June as a result of school closings and turnarounds, then in July for budgetary reasons, including 200 lunchroom staffers notified Friday.

At the 48 schools the district permanently closed in June and the few more it turned around, 545 total teachers lost their jobs. Then in July, the district let go 1,036 more teachers and reported that 161 more teachers at closing schools would be placed in a reassignment pool because of a lack of positions for them at the new schools. CPS says the 161 teachers were not laid off because they receive full pay and benefits for five months and long-term substitute pay and benefits for an additional five months.

The union has counted these positions as losses, too, saying they’re gone from the district.

Facing a budget shortfall — mainly because of a $400 million jump in the pension obligation — CPS officials said they have limited cuts to the classroom to $68 million. But some principals still let teachers go.

“Some of these [layoffs] will definitely be tied to enrollment, but keep in mind that student-based budgeting has fundamentally changed how principals staff their schools,” CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said. “We no longer have quota positions. Principals hire whatever positions they determine are needed for their school.”

This year, instead of assigning a set number of teachers and staff to each school, CPS handed out a set amount of money per child to each school to let principals make their own staffing decisions. Principals have more responsibility under the student-based budgeting system, but many have complained they also have less money than last year.

Carroll attributed some of the bilingual cuts overall to state cutbacks on bilingual funding.

And schools that lost a lot of enrollment — such as Kelly High School, which is projected to have 250 fewer kids in August than last year — simply won’t need as many teachers, she said.

Kelly’s Local School Council said the school, CPS’ largest high school, lost 23 teaching positions.

“But ultimately,” Carroll said, “as we’ve noted before, the net reduction in teaching positions in the district will be closer to 500 and not the less than 1,500 who’ve received notices. Principals are in the process of hiring back approximately 1,000 positions.”

Schools where enrollment has gone up and schools that are changing academic programs are hiring, she said, adding, “Even schools that laid teachers off will be rehiring because of all the extra money we gave them.”

That “extra money” refers to $36 million in state poverty money allotted across all schools earlier than usual this year, and $8.8 million doled out to 135 elementary schools in chunks of $100,000, $70,000 and $35,000, or what the district estimates to be about an entire teacher position, about two-thirds of a teacher position and one-half of an added teacher. All CPS high schools also were allotted an extra $40 per student after initial student-based budget amounts were set.

The rehiring process just started Monday, so how many teachers have been hired back was not available Friday.

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