Chicago Public Schools sets 3 furlough days for workers

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Public Schools announced Thursday that district employees will be required to take three unpaid furlough days during the current fiscal year.

Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement the district is expected to save $30 million from the furloughs. The action comes as the school district faces a $1.1 billion budget deficit, no income from the state of Illinois and no contract with the Chicago Teachers Union.

The first furlough day will come on March 25, which is Good Friday. According to Claypool, Good Friday was picked as a furlough day because an estimated 8,000 staff members were already planning to take the day off.

"After hearing from many principals that they were concerned about staff capacity on Good Friday, which normally falls during Spring Break, we determined the best course of action was a furlough day, combined with non-instructional year-end days." Claypool said. "It's never easy to furlough employees, but our priority was to preserve instructional time for our students while preserving year-end cash and continuing to chip away at our budget gap."

Two additional furlough days for office staff will occur in April during spring break, while school-based employees will have two furlough days in June.

The furloughs are the district's latest effort to save money. Earlier this year, the district announced it ended a long-standing practice of picking up the bulk of pension contributions for teachers. That decision led the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this week to threaten a strike as soon as April 1.

Union President Karen Lewis said the furlough decision strengthens the union's resolve to shut down the school district.

"The mayor is already seeking a 7 percent pay cut, and today's directive adds another reduction in salary and benefits," Lewis said.