CPS officials to cut teachers at several schools

Officials at Chicago Public Schools said yesterday that they plan to lay off teachers at several district schools in an effort to deal with enrollment declines.

Officials said the moves are not related to separate cuts meant to help fix a $475 million budget shortfall this year. The shortfall will ulitmately result in about 1,000 layoffs. But CPS has repeatedly said teachers will not be affected.

"These are not budget cuts," said CPS spokesman Malon Edwards. "These are cuts based on decreased enrollment."

Officials acknowledged the layoffs after members of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or C.O.R.E., pointed to staff reductions at several schools in the district. The organization held a press conference before the Board of Education's monthly meeting yesterday.

They questioned how the cuts could be related to reduced enrollment if they were happening at schools without significant declines in the number of students attending them.

"These cuts are devastating," said Karen Lewis, co-chair of C.O.R.E. "We're going to have students sitting in classes with no teachers."

Edwards did not immediately provide historical enrollment data, but he confirmed C.O.R.E.'s figures for the staff reductions:

  • 17 positions at Clemente Community Academy High School
  • 13 at Hope Institute Learning Academy
  • 12 at Tilden Career Community Academy High School
  • nine at Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School
  • three at Dewey Elementary Academy of Fine Arts

C.O.R.E. members also alleged that the entire math and science departments at Harlan High School were cut.

Edwards said the 17 teachers in those departments were invited to reapply for their positions within a new engineering program at the school. Of those, he said, the district retained eight. Two did not show up for interviews, one did not submit a resume, and another is considering whether to retire, Edwards said. He said the rest applied but were not accepted to teach in the school's new program.

He said figures for other schools were not immediately available, and that officials were still considering the timing of the layoffs.

"They are under review, Edwards said. "We have not made a decision yet."

The Board of Education also approved a new performance policy for district schools today. The policy is similar to a version approved last year, but it contains additional language that requires schools to meet minimum requirements on state tests to avoid probation, even if they are in otherwise good standing with the district.

Ryan Crosby, director of accountability at the district, said that, based on 2008 data, three high schools in good standing would be placed under probation under the new policy. Preliminary data indicates that the new policy would not affect any elementary or preschools.

C.O.R.E. members criticized officials for recommending it.

"They will cause more schools to fail, more schools to be put on probation, as if they are criminal," said Wade Tillett, a teacher at Volta Elementary School.

Staff Writer Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 12, or adrian at chitowndailynews dot org.