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Chicago Public Schools Spending Millions On Pay For Suspended Employees

CHICAGO (CBS) -- What if we told you a chunk of taxpayer funding for education goes not to students but to teachers in trouble? CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside what the city spends on suspended Chicago Public Schools employees.

The district is currently shelling out more than $200,000 a week to pay employees who have been placed on leave.

The Morning Insiders wanted to know about these staffers; many who've been on "vacation" since way before summer break, even before the polar vortex, even before last summer.

CBS 2 cross-referenced several pieces of Chicago Public Schools data and discovered a custodial worker who was allegedly "verbally abusive to supervisors and administrators."

He's collected almost $1,200 a week on suspension for at least 87 weeks. That adds up to more than $100,000.

In less than two years, CPS doled out $3.9 million to 200 suspended employees. A closer look revealed some of their offenses don't seem that egregious.

For example, a porter – someone who works in the lunchroom – got in trouble for allowing his food handler's license to expire.

His weekly take home pay of $429.70 might not sound like much, but multiply that by 66 weeks of paid leave, and that's $28,360 in taxpayer money while he's been suspended for more than a year.

Other expensive but seemingly minor reasons CBS 2 found for long-term suspensions include:

• "Swiped in and out at locations other than work location" - $29,290.02 in pay while on suspension;
• "Removed several boxes of food product from school without authorization" - $26,641.28 in pay on suspension;
• "Allowed students to be driven to school by another parent without permission" $2,021.07 in pay on suspension.

CBS 2 found most of the 200-plus CPS employees suspended but still receiving paychecks since last year were accused of physical or sexual acts against students or co-workers.

In the past, the district has said an investigation "ordinarily takes at least several months" to compile "substantial evidence before pursuing dismissal charges" before the Illinois State Board of Education.

Due process is fair, but what about that long wait in limbo for employees? A peek at state files shows only two CPS cases were closed so far this year.

CBS 2's Victory pressed CPS about the sum given to suspended employees thanks to lengthy investigations. Spokeswoman Emily Bolton issued the following statement:

"Student safety is the district's highest priority and individuals accused of wrongdoing have no place in our schools. While the district works to complete investigations in a timely manner, we must also ensure that the investigations are thorough to ensure due process and collect sufficient evidence to bring to a dismissal hearing if the allegations are substantiated."

CPS sources added that union contracts often ensure an accused employee gets paid until charges of dismissal are filed, while other employees are also entitled to paid leave with varying structures depending on the positions they hold.

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