Chicago Schools Cut 200 Central Office Jobs to Save $16M

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Chicago Public Schools officials announced Thursday that they have trimmed the Chief Education Office and network offices by 200 positions for a savings of $16 million, part of a districtwide reorganization plan under CPS' new leadership team.

The jobs represent a 25 percent reduction in staff for those departments. But the district still needs to realize another $44 million in savings through layoffs, closing vacant jobs, program reductions, streamlining curriculum and eliminating other duplications. Officials declined to say how many more layoffs are anticipated.

Earlier this year, the district issued 1,000 pink slips to teachers, cut annual teacher raises, made program reductions and increased property taxes to address a gaping budget hole. Some of the teaching positions may have been recouped with educators finding other jobs within the system.

Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard has complained about walking into a "fragmented" system and finding central office jobs that overlapped and staffers left without supervision after years of budget cuts. CPS brought in a private consulting group that analyzed its system at no charge.

"Some of it is streamlining, some of it is eliminating some of our functions that while on some level may have been necessary, aren't going to drive us toward the academic achievement," said Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso.

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Some of the cut positions came from a shift away from the 24 Central Area Offices implemented under former CPS chief Ron Huberman. District officials have consolidated those duties to 18 area networks.

Barbara Radner, DePaul University's director of the Center for Urban Education, says streamlining functions like data analysis and curriculum development and spearheading the efforts from downtown will be helpful. Under Huberman many regional offices developed their own instruction materials and assessment strategies, creating a mishmash of directives that were not always effective, she said.

"It looks like the district office is taking leadership across the city on curriculum priorities rather than saying everyone can figure it out yourself," Radner said. "That's a big change from the do-it-yourself approach last year. But the execution itself is always the question."

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