The Chicago Employment Law Blog

The Strike's Over. Are Layoffs, School Closings Next?

So what's next? The Chicago Teachers' Union and Chicago Public Schools finally came to an agreement this week. Classes resumed today. The CTU got three consecutive years of raises, more than 400 new teachers added to the payroll, and a guarantee that many of the new teachers will be hired from the ranks of those recently laid-off. Now they'll only have to worry about mass school closures and unemployment.

According to Reuters, the new CTU contract will add $75 million to the district's existing $665 million deficit for this year. Subsequent years will likely be even worse. Prior to the strike, next year's deficit was estimated to top $1 billion.

We've asked this question before, yet it remains unanswered: Where will the money come from? The State of Illinois will be of no help. They have their own astronomical deficit slowly suffocating state-sponsored social programs.

According to CNN's tally, the teachers' victories in the strike were numerous. They will receive a 17.6% raise over four years, seniority pay increases, the same health-care coverage, more teachers to balance out the longer school day, and a reduced emphasis on students' test scores when it comes to teacher evaluations.

For the district, they succeeded in obtaining a longer school day and year, and they will now consider student test scores as part of teacher evaluations. The first victory comes with the caveat of the added expense of new teachers. The second victory wasn't much of a victory at all, as the test score consideration is mandated by law.

Barring a massive influx of funding, it looks like more school closures and layoffs might happen in the near future. Instead of unionized public schools, charter schools will be opened. While the teachers' union may have won the battle, when their jobs are potentially eliminated in favor of non-union schools, they will have lost the war. Mayor Rahm Emanuel once said that he was not planning on kicking the can (of debt) down the road. Does anyone really think he's going to continue running CPS at a $1 billion-per-year deficit?

If teachers are eventually laid off, there is some hope on the horizon. In addition to getting preferential treatment should CPS need more teachers, laid-off workers are also eligible for unemployment benefits. The process is as simple as filling out an online form, more information on which can be found here.

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