A $634 million pension payment for Chicago Public Schools means cuts for teachers and central office workers next year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Springfield is treating Chicagoans like “second-class citizens,” leading to “unconscionable” cuts to school services and staff numbers. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Emanuel and the head of CPS, Jesse Ruiz, detailed those cuts. Three members of the Committee on Education, Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40), new Chair Ald. Will Burns (4), and Ald. George Cardenas (12) joined the mayor at the podium, but didn’t speak.
The mayor says class sizes won’t go up and the school year will start on time, but CPS will make the following cuts:
- $17.4 million – network offices and teacher development programs
- $15.8 million – startup funding for newly approved charter, contract, and alternative learning schools
- $11.6 million – professional development funding for turnaround schools
- $11.1 million – reduction in facility repair and maintenance budget
- $9.2 million – high school classes will start and end 45 minutes later
- $3.2 million – elementary schools will cut back on sports and stipends for 5,300 coaches
- $2.3 million – changing transport of magnet students to school
- Extra reductions – eliminating central office positions, reducing software licensing costs, reducing central office funding for freshman orientation, redistribution of Magnet and 1B funding, reducing attendance grants and funding for academic competitions
The district is issuing layoff notices to CPS employees. 1,050 workers, most of whom work in the Central Office, will lose their jobs, and 350 vacant positions will be eliminated.
The mayor offered two proposals to help address CPS pension payments. “Option A” would “create one uniform pension system for all teachers and all taxpayers in the state.” “Option B” is what the mayor called a grand bargain. It involves a $175-$200 million dollar property tax increase and for teachers and the state to chip in for pension payments. “I am not asking Springfield to bail out Chicago,” the mayor said, just for the state to “treat us equitably like every other system in the state. Either merge them or do a grand bargain, all-in.”
Asked what chance these options had in the middle of the stalemate in Springfield, the mayor said he’s been speaking with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. He acknowledged State Sen. President John Cullerton’s current plan carries many aspects of his grand bargain, and added that he was open to it as the starting point for negotiations.