CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago public school district announced Thursday that it was laying off about 2,100 teachers and support staff — a figure more than twice as large as the teachers union head was expecting and one the district blamed on the Legislature’s failure to reach a deal on pension reform.
The Chicago Public Schools layoffs are in addition to the approximately 850 teachers and support staff who were laid off in June, which the district attributed to its planned closures of about 50 schools that it considered underutilized.
Among those laid off Thursday are 1,036 teachers, the remainder are support staff, including teacher assistants, food service employees and janitorial staff.
School district spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the district is facing a $1 billion budget deficit, much of it driven by an increase in its pension obligations.
“We were hoping to get pension reform in Springfield,” she said. “That did not happen. That has brought the pension crisis to the doorstep of our schools,” she said.
Chicago schools were seeking a waiver on pension payments for the 2014 budgetary year, which began July 1. During the spring legislative session, the General Assembly failed to pass legislation permitting the district to make a reduced pension contribution over the next two years, obligating the district to increase the contribution by $400 million.
District officials said even if pension reform is enacted by the Legislature, it would not commit to reversing the layoffs.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis expressed surprise at the number of layoffs, saying she expected the figure to be closer to 800.
“Once again, CPS has lied to parents, employees and the public, about keeping the new school-based budget cuts away from the classroom,” Lewis said in a statement.
The district has eliminated $600 million in central office operations and administration in recent years, in addition to $52 million in cuts it made this year, according to Carroll.