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CPS Revises Sick-Day Policy Costing $37M Yearly

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CPS Revises Sick-Day Policy Costing $37M Yearly

Jean-Claude Brizard

Chicago Public Schools' proposed plan to revise its decades-old sick-day policy that cost the system an average $37 million each year.

The new policy follows a Better Government Association report earlier this month revealing CPS spent $227 million over the last five years in sick-day payouts and nearly $265 million for unused sick and vacation days.

In response to the report, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he has "zero tolerance for waste or benefit abuses of any kind" and ordered CPS and sister agencies to submit plans permanently terminating all payouts for unused sick time by Feb. 17.

The schools district responded with a "fair and cost-effective plan focused on employee needs." Officials expect to present the proposal to the Board of Education at its Feb. 22 board meeting.

“We intend to present a comprehensive policy to the Board that will do away with generous payouts that we simply can no longer afford so that we can invest more dollars to boost student achievement,” said schools chief Jean Claude Brizard in a statement. 

CPS employees currently are eligible for payouts after working at least 20 years or when they reach the age of 65. Right now employees of CPS can accrue up to 325 sick and vacation days.

The BGA found former chief human resources officer Ascencion Juarez received $250,787 in sick pay alone when he retired after more than 35 years. Former CPS chief education officer Barbara Eason-Watkins collected $239,849 in sick pay when she retired in 2010 after 38 years, according to the BGA's report.

The Chicago Teachers Union argued earlier this month that if teachers aren't able to bank sick days, they'd be unable to take paid time off for life events like a surgery or maternity leave.

"It's not fair to characterize this benefit as an abuse in a situation where it's been negotiated over time. People have to have been working for 20 years at least in order to earn it," said spokesman Jesse Sharkey.
 

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