Chicago schools budget calls for borrowing, teacher layoffs

Darlene Hill and Corey McPherrin.

- Chicago's public schools announced hundreds of new teacher layoffs on Monday, as officials unveiled a budget with a half-billion dollar hole in it. 

Governor Rauner offered help, but only if top Democrats enact new limits on the power of public employee unions.

It appears all but certain that CPS will open on Sept. 8th, thanks in part to a lot of borrowing and a new round of job cuts.

CPS history teacher Allison Valentine learned only Monday that her job was gone.

“Total Shock!” she said.

Valentine said her layoff notice was all the more shocking because enrollment is expected to surge next month at her high school, the Marine Leadership Academy.

Valentine still hopes the school will find a way to save her position.

“And I knew the influx of freshmen coming in that was projected -- that we would actually need an extra history teacher and not lose one,” she said.

Even with the new round of 479 job cuts, the Board of Education's budget still has a gaping $480 million hole.

The school system's CEO, Forrest Claypool, hopes to plug the gap with new help from the State Capitol and a new contract with the Chicago Teachers union. It would be worth $170 million a year if rank and file teachers made their own full pension contribution, instead of having CPS pay 7 percent of their salaries to the fund.

After behind the scenes talks, the union president backed off a previous threat to strike over the issue.                

“You have no idea in negotiation. You know, you present your proposals. We present ours. We have some time to look at it, counter it,” said Karen Lewis.

The Board of Ed's CEO said any agreement for teachers to pay more into their pension fund would be phased in over several years. He denied Gov. Rauner's claim that Chicago schools want the state to mandate the change, removing it from collective bargaining.

Rauner wants to severely limit what can be negotiated with the teachers union, whose members in Chicago get to go on strike without losing even a penny of pay.

“The power of the teachers union has been overwhelming. Chicago has given and given and given. It's created the financial crisis that Chicago schools face now,” Rauner said.

Rauner's offered $400 million over next two years to help Chicago schools, but only if top Chicago Democrats help enact into law key parts of his turnaround agenda, especially the limitations on the power of public employee unions.

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