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335 schools lost teachers in CTU layoffs

Jesse Sharkey vice president Chicago Teachers Unitalks about layoffs Chicago Public Schools teachers news conference July 19.  |

Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, talks about the layoffs of Chicago Public Schools teachers at a news conference on July 19. | Alex Wroblewski~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 21, 2013 6:06AM



About 400 Chicago Public Schools — a vast majority of the district — laid off teachers in July in the wake of budget cuts, even some schools projected to gain students from shuttered schools or neighborhood growth, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found.

The detailed layoff data, provided by the Chicago Teachers Union, showed the locations and positions of union members laid off in July for budget reasons. The Sun-Times’ examination of the data found that the 1,041 teachers and 474 educational support personnel — commonly known as classroom aides — who were let go worked in 398 of CPS’ approximately 500 elementary and high schools staffed by the CTU, and pink-slipped teachers were employed at 335 of those schools. They’re in addition to 855 school workers let go in June after a record 47 schools and a program closed.

Under the district’s new student-based budgeting, which allocates a set amount of money to a school per child, more students should equal more funding, but at several schools that laid-off teachers or other union support staffers, enrollment remained steady or even went up slightly.

Even fourteen of the schools CPS identified as “welcoming schools” — designated to receive an influx of children displaced from 48 schools that closed — laid off CTU staffers: Ten laid off one teacher; four laid off one or two paraprofessionals, and one school, Ludwig Von Beethoven, laid off one of each.

Hearst Elementary, 4640 S. Lamon, is supposed to gain about 16 students. It laid off six teachers out of 26.5. Burr Elementary, 1621 W. Wabansia Ave., should gain just three students, but it laid off six teachers out of 22.5. At Christopher Elementary, at 5042 S. Artesian Ave., where more than half of the population is special-education students, is supposed to increase by 15 students, but it laid off seven teachers out of 46.5, according to the CTU data.

Of the 10 worst-hit schools, when calculating for percentage of teachers laid off, two were expected to gain students. Two are projected to lose 20 or fewer students. Enrollments at the rest are expected to tank — some are phasing out, some had boundary changes.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey called the district’s conversation about layoffs that tied funding to enrollment “misleading,” saying, “It led people to believe if a school’s enrollment stayed the same they wouldn’t face layoffs.”

But with what the union estimated at 4 percent cuts across the board, he said, “We think it’s possible for a school to both keep a steady enrollment or even gain enrollment and still lay off provided that the across-the-board cut was greater than the enrollment change.”

CPS says about 1,000 teachers will be hired back as schools spend extra allotted money or fill retirement and typical resignation vacancies, but it says it won’t bring back all the closed positions.

Sharkey said that means “from the point of view of students, there’s still a lot of less teachers going around.”

Layoffs seemed inevitable in a terrible budget year that the district said left classrooms a net $63 million short over last year, though a separate analysis by the parent group Raise Your Hand put cuts to the neighborhood and other schools employing CTU teachers and aides at closer to $162 million.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the July layoff details are a quick snapshot of where positions were lost, not a full picture of how many teachers and aides schools will employ in the school year that starts Monday.

Many principals, even ones who determined who was laid off in July, are already hiring back some teachers and filling vacancies left by normal attrition using about $36 million in state money for poor students that was given to schools this summer instead of the usual fall disbursement, Carroll said. About 135 grade schools shared an additional $8.8 million in extra funding. High schools evenly split an extra $5 million of $40 per student.

“Since hiring began less than one month ago, CPS has made significant progress by filling 1,000 positions in time for the start of the school year to ensure that teachers are in the classroom on day one ready for a successful start on Monday, August 26,” Carroll said. “Despite the financial crisis brought on by a lack of pension reform in Springfield, we are using every available dollar to help our schools get the supports they need for students on day one.”

Grissom Elementary Principal Dennis Sweeney has spent his entire $155,000 allotment of that state money on a specialized reading coordinator to help struggling students. That coordinator will teach two classes this year in addition to her coaching and training duties because he had to let three teachers go and cut his gym teacher from full time to part time.

Sweeney said the other two layoffs reported by the CTU resulted from some budgeting sleight of hand. Two of the five positions the CTU reported closed were rebudgeted under different sources. And two aides who appeared to lose their jobs also were rebudgeted and are staying, he said.

Though Grissom is projected to get an additional 25 or so kids, potentially raising the whole school’s 326 children to 351, its per-pupil amount went down. The Hegewisch grade school was one of a handful in the district to try per-pupil finding, and it received a higher allowance than this year’s $4,100 to $4,400 allotted per grade school student.

“To get schools to go with per pupil finding, they gave a very generous per pupil amount,” he said, “and now we’re like everybody else. We were hit particularly hard,” about $300,000 overall. “We’re adjusting to it.”

If anything, he’s worried his enrollment projections are too high and his school could face more layoffs after a final count is taken on the 20th day of school.

“The main challenge,” he said, “will be holding onto whoever we have.”

Contributing: Art Golab

Email: lfitzpatrick@suntimes.com

Twitter: @bylaurenfitz



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