CTU keeps eye on Philadelphia schools, where 3,000 layoffs loom
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter email@example.com June 9, 2013 3:20PM
4-28-10 Jackson Potter speaks during a press confrence outside of Chicago Public School HQ before the School Board meeting. Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: July 11, 2013 6:31AM
Chicago Teachers Union officials fear the city could soon follow Philadelphia’s steps and send out thousands of layoff notices.
On Friday, the Philadelphia School District notified more than 3,000 employees of layoffs.
Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an email that a budget submitted by the district to schools does not include layoffs, but she added: “Under school based budgeting, principals create their own staffing plans and determine what their needs will be classroom by classroom.”
Jackson Potter, of the Chicago Teachers Union, said on Friday that based on the city’s deficit, in addition to jobs lost because of school closings, the city could see 6,000 layoffs. In the last school year, CPS recorded 41,498 employees.
“Seeing what happened in Philadelphia, we are definitely concerned,” said Potter, a staff coordinator.
Among those being laid off in Philadelphia are 676 teachers, 282 counselors and 769 teacher’s assistants, according to Philadelphia Federation of Labor spokesman George Jackson. Twenty-four schools were closed and three schools were converted to charter schools in March, he said.
Potter said Chicago may see similar numbers next month, when CPS puts out a districtwide budget.
“They’re going to threaten Armageddon and a disaster scenario where we have to raise class sizes to 40 and lay off thousands of teachers, and there are other options,” Potter said. “Why not take the TIF surplus and put it back where it belongs, in schools, parks and libraries?”
Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said tax-increment finance money has helped build schools and make school improvements in nearly every community throughout Chicago.
Chicago’s and Philadelphia’s school districts bear some similarities, besides being major urban districts. But a key difference in Philadelphia’s situation is that its union is still negotiating a contract, which expires Aug. 31. Also, teachers are not allowed to strike under a state law that says a teacher who strikes could lose certification.
Still, Jackson says Philadelphia teachers are watching Chicago.
“There seems to be a disturbing notion that our kids aren’t worth spending the money on, let’s just cut back their services,” Jackson said. “We’re seeing that in Chicago. We’re definitely seeing that here. And we’re of course watching what’s happening in Chicago.”
Carroll said CPS faces a billion-dollar budget deficit, with a $400 million pension payment included in that figure. But CPS is working on ways to cut the deficit, including using a one-time reserve.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Thursday that a first priority in budget talks is “to protect the classroom and to protect our children’s education.”
Chicago Public Schools says it faces a $400 million increase in annual pension payments and is trying to avoid cuts to the classroom ever since the Illinois General Assembly last week wouldn’t grant them further pension relief.