Citing a $1 billion budget deficit, Chicago Public Schools will lay off more than 2,000 employees, more than 1,000 of them teachers, the district said Thursday night.
About half of the 1,036 teachers being let go are tenured. The latest layoffs, which also include 1,077 school staff members, are in addition to 855 employees — including 420 teachers — who were laid off last month as a result of the district’s decision to close 49 elementary schools and a high school program.
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the district was “scraping the bottom” of reserves to provide financial relief and had made cuts in other spending before making layoffs.
“We’re not going to be able to cut our way out of this crisis,” Carroll said. “Our revenues are simply not keeping in line with our spending increases.”
The district again blamed the lack of pension reform for many of its fiscal woes, noting that pension payments are growing this fiscal year by an additional $400 million. The layoffs were the result of “budgetary decisions made by principals or changes in enrollment,” the district said in a statement.
“Absent pension reform in Springfield, we had very few options available to us to close that gap,” Carroll said. “This year, given the magnitude and the size of this deficit, and the fact that there was no pension reform reached in Springfield, this has made it to the doorsteps of our schools.”
Last month the district released school budgets based on a per-pupil funding formula, and almost immediately principals began complaining about severe budget cuts and being forced to cut art and music teachers. Thursday’s announcement drives home the extent of the reductions.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis expressed dismay over the layoffs.
“Once again, CPS has lied to parents, employees and the public about keeping the new school-based budget cuts away from the classroom,” Lewis said.
The district has also proposed an additional $52 million in reductions to central office costs, and as the district tries to close the budget gap, many are bracing for further cuts.
The last time CPS laid off a large number of teachers was 2010, when 1,200 teachers lost jobs because of that year’s fiscal crisis. CPS says 65 percent were rehired that year, and that typically a majority of teachers who are laid off find other jobs within the district, but CPS is facing a significant shortfall this year.
Under the new teachers contract, highly qualified teachers who have not followed students to the designated schools receiving children from closing schools are eligible to be in a reassigned teacher pool at full pay and benefits for five months next school year.
Asked whether pension reform could help reinstate some of the budget cuts, CPS spokeswoman Carroll said it’s difficult to know.
“Obviously, we welcome pension reform, but we can’t speculate what the impact will be,” she said.