CHICAGO — Chicago school officials say they're ready to cut $100 million from school budgets and force teachers to pay more pension costs after the teachers' union rejected the latest offer in contentious contract negotiations that have lasted over a year.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said Tuesday the union's rejection was "disheartening" and cost-cutting efforts were necessary without a deal. He says bargaining continues.
The district faces a $1 billion shortfall and recently laid off hundreds of central office employees.
“We will work to restore trust necessary to reach an agreement despite facing unprecedented challenges that threaten our classroom,” Claypool said.
He's directing school principals to make cuts at their schools that could see student enrollment per class rise, and warned of administrative cuts district wide.
"We cannot afford the practice of paying teacher and employer pension payments,” Claypool said.
The moves follow Monday's overwhelming rejection of a contract between CPS and the CTU.
Claypool broke down the cost projected savings:
* $75-million will come from cuts to school budgets including charters
* $65-million pension pick up for teachers meaning the district will begin deducting 7% from all CTU members' checks as soon as possible to meet pension obligations
* $32.1 million in central office streamlining for a savings of $130 million
Other workforce cuts totaling $50 million will come from eliminating teaching assistants, clerks and other administrative roles
Claypool says he has no choice in making the cuts and in order to get bankers to issue hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds to keep CPS afloat in the face of billion dollar plus deficit and no money coming from Springfield.
In response to the announced cuts and the rejection of the contract offer Monday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, surrounded by supporters at union headquarters, blasted the cuts and said the children would have suffered most with increased class size up to 5 to 50 pupils per room in some cases and would have pushed out 2,200 experienced educators.
“Forcing someone to take a bad deal by bullying them, we’re not going to be bullied,” said Lewis.
While both sides are say they are eager to get back to the table, now more than ever a repeat of a teacher strike last seen in 2012 could be on the horizon for Mayor Rahm Emanuel once again later in 2016]
The Union's 800-member house of delegates will meet on Tuesday and could vote to override the rejection yesterday of CPS's offer by the 40-member so-called big bargaining team.
Insiders say that's unlikely to happen.
At the same time, Claypool says school officials will spend the day trying to secure that $875 million in bonds with better interest rates in light of these cuts.