CTU Holds Practice Vote on Strike as CPS Announces Up to 5,000 Layoffs Possible

The layoffs would take effect in February if the district does not get more funding from the state, according to CPS CEO Forrest Claypool

The Chicago Teachers Union is scheduled to hold a practice vote Thursday on a teachers strike in anticipation of up to 5,000 layoffs next semester.

Chicago Public Schools CEO announced in September that the district could potentially cut 5,000 jobs by Thanksgiving due to the ongoing Illinois budget stalemate. On Monday, Claypool said the layoffs would not happen until February, but he did not specify how many layoffs are possible.

CTU President Karen Lewis said the layoffs would require reprogramming nearly 700 schools, and they would affect between 175,000 and 300,000 students, depending on how the layoffs are structured.

"We cannot blow up schools because you don't have any money," Lewis said. "We have to figure out another way to do this." 

Lewis said the union has other ideas on how to solve the district's financial mess, but she only offered one potential solution on Monday: reconfiguring the TIFs.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey added that the district will not be able to come up with a plan for fiscal solvency "unless they come up with a plan to tax the wealthy."

While Gov. Bruce Rauner laid partial blame on CPS' financial struggles for the state budget stalemate, Sharkey fired back at the governor, saying a teachers' strike would be part of a "showdown" with the state.

"If the governor of this state thinks this is going to be another corporate takeover, and he's going to shut down our schools in order to gain a political win, he needs to think that this is a game in which we get to move, too," Sharkey said. "This is not going to be a shutdown. This is going to be a showdown."

Claypool pointed a finger at Rauner as well and asked teachers and parents to join the district in Springfield to ask for fair funding to prevent the possible layoffs.

"Fundamentally, all roads lead through Springfield," Rauner said. "We cannot solve this crisis without Springfield stepping up first and being a significant part of the solution ... Its discriminatory funding formula is at the root of this crisis." 

In an event in Bloomington the same day, Rauner said the CPS pension problem has existed for years and added that it is not a problem that was in any way caused by the state.

The union needs 75 percent of their membership to agree to a strike. No timetable on an official vote has been given.

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