School Board Unanimously Approves Huberman Plan

Vote could lead to increased class sizes, fewer teachers

By Natalie Martinez and Anthony Ponce
|  Tuesday, Jun 15, 2010  |  Updated 3:39 PM CDT
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Karen Lewis explains where the Chicago Board of Education can find money to avoid teacher layoffs.

Karen Lewis explains where the Chicago Board of Education can find money to avoid teacher layoffs.

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The Chicago School Board voted unanimously to approve a measure to give Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman authority to make major changes to the system.

Under the emergency plan voted on by the board Tuesday, Ron Huberman gains the power to thin the teachers ranks through administrative moves, borrow $800 million to fill budget holes and increase class size up to 35 students. 

"It is not without significant stress that I present these alternatives, however the urgent and dire nature of this crisis has left us no choice," Huberman said in proposing the cuts to the board. "These concessions are the only way to avoid the threat of strike. The current budget deficit provides no alternative."

Chicago Teachers Union president-elect Karen Lewis calls the moves a "nuclear option."

"I would implore you to reconsider," she said at the board meeting during time allotted for public comments. "I realize the state hasn't done what they're supposed to do, but I think we can do better."

Lewis, along with teachers and parents, took to the streets Tuesday armed with chants like “save our schools” and “children first” and signs to protest proposed cost cutting actions.

Lewis and her constituents are upset because the board's plan means that Huberman has the authority to lay off more than 2,700 teachers -- some of them tenured --  from the Chicago Public School system. Those teachers would be funneled into a "reassigned teacher pool" that offers them a chance to work as substitute teachers at their current pay rate while looking for other work.

Besides cutting teachers, the board could vote to give Huberman the power to increase the class size and borrow $8 million in cash to cover $420 million in late state aid payments and cover a four percent raise for the teachers union and seven other unions. That's money they say could be used to keep teachers employed.

"If you’re seeding power to the business man to make educational decisions, you’re in trouble," Lewis said.

Parents share the teachers' sentiment.

“We’re very disappointed this is happening on short notice," said Jonathan Goldman, a member of the Raise Your Hand Coalition of CPS parents who planned to speak to the board before the vote. 

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