Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool on Tuesday announced hundreds of millions of dollars in school budget cuts amid negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union.
A day after the bargaining team for the Chicago Teachers Union unanimously rejected a contract offer from the Chicago Board of Education, Claypool unveiled that CPS will cut $100 million from school budgets to help decrease its deficit.
“This is something I’d hoped to avoid at all costs,” Claypool said. “We’ll do our very best to prevent teacher cuts and we’ll work with schools to keep class sizes small and prevent mid-year disruptions.”
Claypool also announced major changes to CPS’ pension plan.
“We cannot afford to continue the current practice of paying both teacher and employer pension payments,” Claypool said.
Altogether, the $50 million CPS cuts from the central office, as well as the $100 million cuts from schools’ budgets and $170 million in savings from pensions totals $320 million dollars of deficit reduction, according to Claypool.
In response to CPS’ announcement, CTU President Karen Lewis explained that everyone in the district is facing a “clear and present danger.”
“This is a problem they created,” said Lewis of CPS, explaining the teachers union has lost its trust in district leaders.
“It fails to keep its promises," Lewis said. "We have dealt with a myriad of lies and financial myths that are designed to create a doomsday narrative.”
The CTU plans to close its bank account with Bank of America Wednesday and withdraw nearly $1 million, Lewis announced, although it was unclear what that money would be used for. CTU members, parents and students will also rally at 4:30 p.m. Thursday along LaSalle and Adams streets.
The CTU on Monday said the Board of Education's latest proposal "does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the longer-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city." Members said they have "legitimate distrust" of the district and decided not to send the proposal to the full union for a vote.
"We are not convinced that they will make good on their promises set forth in this proposal that are very vague and not clear," said Chicago Public Schools teacher and bargaining team member Monique Redeaux-Smith.
Teachers have been working without a contract since June. For months the union has been threatening a walkout. Rejecting the offer means negotiations will move into the "fact-finding" phase, which must go on for about four months before a strike can take place.
The latest proposal was a four-year deal. It included raises of 2.75 percent next year and three percent for each of the following two years. But on the flip side, teachers would have been required to contribute more to their pension fund and pay a portion of their health insurance premium.
CPS also threw in retirement bonuses of $1,500 for each year of service in an effort to encourage some long time teachers to step down.
The district was looking for 1,500 teachers to retire. If that doesn't happen, the contract would get reopened for renegotiation in July.
Lewis had earlier said she was hopeful about the proposal, but said in a statement Monday union members have given more than $2 million back to the district in the last five years and argued the financial struggles CPS faces are a revenue-based issue.