CPS pink slips another 249 staffers, blaming enrollment plunge

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About 250 Chicago Public Schools staffers were pink-slipped on Monday after the district made its official count taken on the 20th day of school. | Sun-Times file photo

Blaming a sharp enrollment decline, Chicago Public Schools pink-slipped about 250 staffers on Monday after the district made its official count taken on the 20th day of school, a bit lower than last week’s estimates of 300.

Some 140 teachers and 109 more school-based workers, such as classroom aides, were told Monday they weren’t needed at their schools, which saw enrollment declines. It’s not yet clear how charter school staffing has been affected.

CPS believes it has lost about 3.5 percent of its enrollment since last fall, when it took its official count as the state requires, on the 20th day of school. That’s about 13,000 students.

A preliminary count taken two weeks ago indicated that the district should brace itself to lose about 13,000 students, more than twice the 4,600 student decline district demographers had predicted in July.

CPS has pointed to a bump last year in enrollment of about 2,200 kids between 10th and 20th day counts. And pre-kindergarten numbers and enrollment in alternative schools still need to be finalized. Monday’s student counts determine a school’s final budget and whether it needs to add teachers or let them go.

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Charter schools, many of which start weeks before CPS, also receive payments based on the 20th day count.

“Once again, principals have done admirable work in helping to protect classrooms and students’ progress, and we’re grateful for the work they did planning and preparing for the year,” spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement. “The district will continue to work with principals individually to ensure that they have the resources they need to offer the education Chicago students deserve.”

The Chicago Teachers Union, which plans to walk off the job next Tuesday if a contract isn’t finalized before then, was upset that 187 of its members were laid off.

“Today’s cuts are the latest round of attacks on children and are pushing educators closer to Chicago’s third school strike in four years,” spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin wrote in a press release. “School budgets are down more than 6 percent this year — a loss of $184 million — on top of years of sacrifice by our students, educators and schools, amounting to more than $2 billion in givebacks . . . and the children are paying the cost. This is unacceptable and no way to run a world-class school district.”

“The mayor and the CPS CEO are choosing to take even more from the students, educators and families who have already sacrificed so much,” she said.

CPS didn’t release a school-by-school list Monday, and the union hadn’t yet completed its own analysis, but CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey said that A.N. Pritzker School let go of their librarian, who taught students, so “losing her is going to require reprogramming the entire school.”

He said that Claypool, who formerly headed the Chicago Park District, “doesn’t realize you can’t cut students the same way you cut a tree.”

“We’re talking about students in our toughest schools whose counselors are being cut and social workers are being cut,” he said. “That’s not something I can swallow without choking on it.”

More than 500 teachers and 500 more other staffers were let go over the summer when CPS projected its 2017 enrollment, though many were said to have been hired back in other schools.

CPS pointed to 362 openings for teachers and 266 more vacancies for support personnel, saying that even more jobs will open up at schools whose budgets now increase.

District officials said they wouldn’t release individual school layoffs until every affected employee had been notified. Final enrollment counts also will take several more days to tally.

About 195 CPS-run schools gained enrollment, picking up about $20 million in funding, but 306 lost it, losing $44.9 million, the district has said.

CPS distributed $12.5 million in extra program support to schools that have already cut so many teachers they can no longer offer a full slate of courses or whose losses were much steeper than expected. Appeals for a slice of this money are ongoing.

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