Chicago union acknowledges budget deficit, predicts massive teacher layoffs

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CHICAGO – Chicago Teachers Union officials want the public to believe that the city school district is nearly broke, and hundreds of Chicago teachers will soon lose their jobs, despite their previous claims that the district’s budget deficit was a hoax.

UntitledCTU President Karen Lewis told teachers for months that Chicago Public Schools’ $1 billion deficit is a “myth” and a “manufactured crisis” that would not have to be addressed.

Now the union wants teachers to believe hundreds of workers could lose their jobs as school officials struggle to balance budgets heading into next school year, the Chicago Tribune reports.

So what’s changed?

State legislators recently decided against extending a pension payment holiday that has allowed CPS to pay less than what it owed for employee pensions since 2010. That means the district has to come up with $412 million more than last year, for a total of $612 million in pension payments, the Tribune reports.

The district is in the process of closing 49 elementary schools and a high school program and moving displaced teachers and students to new schools. They’re also trying to sort out budgets and staffing plans for next year while figuring in the added pension costs. The district isn’t expected to release its budget until after the fiscal year starts July 1, so the possibility of layoffs will remain an unknown until then.

That provides the perfect opportunity for CTU officials to do what they do best: create controversy.

“This is the kind of uncertainty that makes the whole project of providing urban education so much harder,” CTU Vice President Jason Sharkey told the Tribune. “The suburbs have done their hiring already. We’re still a month away from knowing how many teachers laid off from closing schools will transfer with their students. We don’t even know if there’s going to be a drastic increase in class size and mass layoffs.”

About 2,000 school employees will be impacted by the district’s school closing plan, though many will transfer to new schools as required by the CTU’s labor contract. The additional pension budget expense equates to about 4,000 teaching positions.

But CPS officials have said they’re working to keep budget cuts “as far away from the classroom as possible” and don’t plan to increase class sizes. The district is looking to cut administrative and operational expenses as much as possible, and could move its central office to a less expensive location, the news site reports.

Fear mongering about massive teacher layoffs “assumes that we won’t be able to find other ways to address the increase in our pension payment,” CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll told the Tribune.

“That is not a reflection of how the district will have to close its budget gap,” she said.

In other words, the district’s budget deficit is a serious problem, but CPS officials are doing their best to minimize the impact budget cuts will have on students.

That’s a far cry from the union’s most recent “the sky is falling” battle cry, which directly conflicts with what CPS President Karen Lewis told her members a couple months ago.

Frankly, we’re surprised Chicago teachers believe anything their union tells them anymore.

By Victor Skinner at EAGnews.org

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