Mayor Rahm Emanuel confirmed Wednesday that approximately 1,400 jobs in Chicago Public Schools will be cut after the district had to borrow money to make a $634 million pension payment.
"Every year we made those payments consistent with our responsibility – these payments though, do not come without a cost. Chicago’s made an additional $200 million in cuts on top of the $740 million in cuts that they’ve made over the last four years," Emanuel said. "Now in my view … They’re intolerable, they’re untenable and they’re totally unconscionable. They are a result of a political system that sprung leak and now is a geyser."
Emanuel credited the deepening financial crisis to "a set of decisions and political problems made over decades."
Jesse Ruiz spoke after the mayor, confirming the district must make $200 million in cuts across the district, slashing 1,400 varied positions across CPS for next fiscal year.
Emanuel and Ruiz both blamed Illinois lawmakers they said failed to address CPS' financial crisis. They say the layoffs are necessary in order to minimize the effect the crisis will have on students inside the classroom.
The 1,400 CPS layoff notices will be delivered immediately, Ruiz said, although some employees will be able to work through the end of the summer.
"Springfield has failed to address Chicago Public Schools' financial crisis, so today CPS made its 2015 pension payment by borrowing money," Ruiz said in a statement Tuesday announcing the news. "As an immediate consequence of driving the district further into debt and our need to address the existing structural deficit - which is also driven by decades of pension neglect - CPS will make $200 million in cuts. As we have said, CPS could not make the payment and keep cuts away from the classroom, so while school will start on time, our classrooms will be impacted."
Upon hearing of the cuts, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis released the following statement:
“We are blindsided by reports that the district intends to lay off 1,400 public school educators, given that we just met with them yesterday and there was no mention of this action. These layoffs prove that the Board never intended to make the pension payment in good faith and that they are using this to justify more attacks on our classrooms. Putting 1,400 people out of work is no way to balance a budget and resource our schools. This is going to hurt our students and the most vulnerable children in our district. These cuts are a result of a history of poor fiscal management by the Board of Education. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked board has led this district over a financial cliff. We are outraged at this deceptive action that only furthers the distrust teachers, parents and students have with the Board. We thought it suspect at the time that the Board was pressuring us to sign off on an agreement on yesterday, before we had a complete agreement. This is retaliatory and unnecessary because (the mayor) refuses to seek revenue options to stabilize CPS."
A spokesperson for CPS fired back Tuesday evening, discrediting Lewis' statement that the positions to be laid off would be educators.
"CTU made a false claim tonight that CPS intends to lay off 1,400 educators. This is not true," CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner said in a statement. "The 1,400 affected positions include employees in the central office, operations and other programs."
Tuesday was the deadline for CPS to make the payment. Ruiz and Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been pushing lawmakers to approve a 40-day delay they said would give CPS and the Legislature time to find a long-term solution.
But the proposal didn't have enough support to pass.