CPS CEO Claypool making major cuts amid budget battle

- Chicago Public Schools officials have proposed a $5.7 billion budget that includes nearly 500 teacher layoffs and banks on $480 million in new funding from state government that might not come.

Officials announced details Monday for what was already expected to be a tough budget.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports CPS officials acknowledge the budget is an "unsustainable" mix of borrowing and cuts, but say it's necessary to make a required $676 million teacher pension payment.

The budget outlines 479 teacher layoffs, though most teachers are rehired by the district and there are over 1,400 teaching positions to be filled before school starts.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool says the state budget crisis is forcing him to make some tough decisions. One of those tough decisions is to get rid of a few of his staffers.

The state budget impasse is forcing Claypool to make a 20 percent cut at his executive budget and draw $1 million in salaries in order to not make cuts in the classroom.

Claypool is cutting two employees from his own staff: Jack Elsey and Nikki Bolden.

Elsey is a $165,000-a-year "chief innovation and incubation officer" who oversaw charter schools after following Byrd-Bennett from Detroit to Chicago. Bolden is a $105,000 human resources expert.

In addition, nine senior executives who together collect $1 million in annual salaries are being laid off.

Along with the staff cuts, Claypool is reducing professional membership, travel, consulting and rental expenses in his office. He is also cutting the staff shuttle from the central office to satellite locations. Making 20 trips a day, shuttle expenses cost $60,000 a year.

Claypool is also making a $250,000 change to the vacation policy for 49 senior managers. Instead of being entitled to five weeks of vacation on their first day of work, they'll be required to earn their vacation time based on years of service, and the maximum vacation time will be four weeks.

All together, the layoffs and policy changes will save the school system $1.7 million.

Gov. Bruce Rauner won't say if Illinois can afford the nearly $500 million in new state funding Chicago Public Schools has factored into its budget, but reiterated that he's open to helping soften a schools financial crisis in conjunction with other reforms.

He says he's willing to negotiate with Chicago officials on what they've asked for, but Chicago shouldn't get special treatment.

Rauner told reporters he hadn't seen the specifics but said he thought the proposal showed the district was ready for the "structural change" he's called for.

Claypool says he hopes legislators will help, though attempts have been unsuccessful.

Chicago Teachers Union officials criticized CPS for including the $480 million, along with the proposal to stop picking up a percentage of teachers' retirement contribution.

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