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CPS Budget Plan Includes Nearly 500 Teacher Layoffs

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Public Schools were sending out layoff notices to nearly 500 teachers, as district officials outlined the district's budget plan for next school year.

"Chicago Public Schools are at a crossroads," CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said in a conference call to outline the budget plan.

In all, the budget plan includes 1,491 layoffs – 479 teachers, 866 non-teachers at schools, and 146 non-teachers in citywide jobs.

CPS officials said it was fewer teacher layoffs than any other point in the past five years. Last year's budget included 550 teacher layoffs, and the 2013 budget included more than 1,000 teacher layoffs.

Teachers who are being laid off can apply for approximately 1,400 vacant positions available for the upcoming school year.


He said, given a massive pension burden, the budget for the 2015-16 school year started off with a $1.1 billion deficit.

The plan to eliminate that gap relies on $480 million in pension help from Springfield, even though that pension relief might never materialize, given that Democratic state legislative leaders and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner have yet to agree on a state budget, as they lock horns over the governor's call for pro-business, anti-union changes in state law before he'll consider a tax hike to balance the budget.

If that money isn't forthcoming, CPS will be in even worse trouble.

"Unfortunately, if Springfield fails to do its part, we will be forced to close a $500 million gap later this year, with a mixture of more unsustainable borrowing, and even deeper cuts," Claypool said.


Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says it looks to her like the money that CPS claims is going to be there from Springfield is not there and may not be there.

"So you're going to start school, and in November you run out of money? " Lewis said. "Now what? That's what it looks like to us."

She says the bottom line may be closed schools.

Governor Rauner says he's 'cautiously optimistic' after seeing the CPS budget and is offering some movement on funding.

The governor says he sees in the budget plan that Chicago leaders are ready for reforms like those he has been pushing, such as letting local school boards decide what items are collectively bargained and allowing cities other than just Chicago to privatize some education support services.

In exchange, he is offering some help.

"I am willing to have the state begin to pick up the normal operating costs for the teachers' pension in Chicago going forward," Rauner said. "Our best estimate is that would be $200 million per year of incremental cost to state taxpayers."


The Republican says this comes after years of Chicago saying yes to the Chicago Teachers Union, allowing its powers to be "overwhelming" and "dictatorial."

In addition to the layoffs, the district is also seeking to raise its property tax levy to the limit, which would generate an extra $19 million in revenue. The district said it also expects to bring in an additional $49 million in extra property tax revenue from new property not previously taxed.

As a symbol of shared sacrifice, Claypool also said he's laying off nine senior executives, whose combined salaries add up to about $1 million.

Other cuts include reductions to travel, consulting, and rental expenses in Claypool's office. In total, the layoffs and policy changes in Claypool's office will save the district $1.7 million

He said the district is still negotiating in good faith with the Chicago Teachers Union, and hopes they'll be able to work out a new contract.

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