The news out of Chicago continues to be brutal, as school district officials last night said that they must eliminate jobs for more than 2,100 employees—roughly 1,000 of them teachers.
Those layoffs come on top of the 850 teachers and staff members who lost their jobs in June—cuts that mostly stemmed from the district’s closure of nearly 50 elementary schools.
With 405,000 students in its system—the third largest in the nation—Chicago education officials say the district must address a $1 billion deficit and that a large chunk of that is due to rising pension obligations. The pension issue is a major challenge in many large school systems, but particularly so in urban centers that have steadily been losing students at the same time that pension costs have been rising. Stephen Sawchuk wrote a really good explanatory piece about this issue, highlighting the particularly acute situation in St. Louis.
District officials said their hands were forced after state lawmakers failed to strike a deal on pension reform that would have allowed the school system to decrease its contributions over the next two years.
Not surprisingly, the teachers’ union isn’t buying the district’s explanation and Karen Lewis, the president, accused district officials of lying about the extent of the job cuts that would be necessary.
Also this week, the district has been defending its massive school closures in federal court as it faces two discrimination lawsuits filed by the union on behalf of parents of African-American students and special education students. The judge in that case will finish hearing testimony today and is expected to deliberate over several days before ruling on whether the closures should be delayed or halted entirely.
Photo: Carson Elementary School art teacher Ruth Augspurger, left, tells the media about receiving her layoff notice from the Chicago Public School system, as parent Anita Caballero Kelly, right, wipes away tears during a news conference on Friday in Chicago. The Chicago Teachers Union is railing against a CPS plan to cut 2,110 employees, including more than 1,000 teachers. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.