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CPS’ ‘painful’ cuts: 227 staffers laid off, but none teachers

Chicago Public Schools laid off 227 non-teaching employees Friday and eliminated another 180 vacant central and administrative positions, “painful” cuts the school district says will save $32 million this year when it faces a $480 million budget gap.

When CPS finally revealed which jobs were cut or positions eliminated Friday night, special education took a hard hit. The special education department known as “Diverse Learners” is being reorganized around what CPS called a “bottoms up” approach, something they could not explain Friday.

A total of 69 special ed employees were let go Friday, and another 18 positions eliminated, according to CPS, for $9.5 million. Some may reapply for jobs. CPS says it will rehire 19 special education managers.

The department that evaluates charter schools lost four people. Eleven law department workers were let go. Human resources lost four workers plus two vacancies. Testing lost three employees plus eight other vacancies, including the chief.

One department chief overseeing struggling neighborhood schools was let go. Five other department chief positions, each costing up to $228,000 in salary plus benefits, were also eliminated.

Classroom teachers were spared.

“There’s no doubt that these cuts were painful,” CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement. “However, with limited resources and a budget crisis not just this year but into the foreseeable future, we had no choice.

“While we will continue to provide the key oversight and administrative responsibilities of the district, we will curtail functions that don’t support the immediate day-to-day operations of schools,” Claypool said.

The district claims that annual savings from all layoffs and reductions since August 1 will total $45.1 million starting next year.

Parents took to Facebook to lament the loss of staff: those who helped parents become volunteers, a network coordinator that helped librarians.

“I’m just scared [layoffs] are going to be more impactful on the classroom then they let on,” said Jennie Biggs, a parent of students at Sheridan Math and Science Academy, who called Friday “a horrible day for CPS.”

Biggs, also a board member of the parent group Raise Your Hand, also said the financial disaster has been “years in the making” so “it’s time for our leaders to step up and enact solutions.”

CPS has made what she called poor fiscal decisions, like opening new schools every year after closing 50 a few years ago amid declining enrollment and entering into bad contracts — such as the Aramark cleaning deal — that have cost more than originally estimated, she said.

“We’ve offered plenty of solutions and it’s time for our decision makers to step up for our kids and our schools,” Biggs said.

Claypool cited the district’s ailing budget that is $480 million short, though CPS has borrowed hundreds of millions this year to pay its bills.

As of August 1, CPS had 1,821 positions that were classified as administrative across its central and citywide offices. Some 227 were given pink slips Friday, but 57 of them are on teams being downsized so they may try to apply for 35 open slots, for a net cut of 192. Another 61 positions had been eliminated between August and January 15, officials said.

The district held a morning meeting for everyone who works for its headquarters, and then issued individual notices for meetings where employees were to be told throughout the day they were no longer needed, sources told the Sun-Times.

Staring down another giant pension payment next year, CPS leaders have been asking Springfield for help. But in the meantime, the governor has supported bankruptcy for Illinois’ largest school district.

The Chicago Teachers Union confirmed none of its members lost jobs.

Claypool had threatened to lay off thousands of teachers in early February, as the second semester begins, but has held off on those while CPS and the CTU continue to hammer out a new teachers contract to replace the one that expired in June that he said will stave off the need to let school staffers go.

But the longer the district waits, the more teacher layoffs will cost because teachers are entitled to 21 days pay after they’re told they’re being let go. The district and union have agreed to start a final phase of negotiations on Feb. 1 if no deal has been reached. If that doesn’t work, the teachers may strike.

CPS layoffs breakdown