The way the federal government measures unemployment means that when jobless people stop looking for work they are no longer counted as unemployed, sending the official unemployment rate artificially lower at times.
A situation the Sun-Times highlights today is sort of like that. The paper reports that while the number of school districts on the Illinois State Board of Education's "financial watchlist" dropped from 39 to 32 between the previous school year and the current one, the decline came at a steep cost. In all, more than 2,600 teaching jobs in Illinois were cut as of last September, an increase over the 1,438 slashed by September 2009. Programs that parents demand went on the chopping block too. "There’s been a lot of reductions in force across the state. Districts have cut programs, They’ve cut music and art and lots of extras, like reading coaches," an education board spokeswoman told the paper. A full 66 percent of school districts reported teacher layoffs at the start of the current school year, the state education board says.
The Reader's Ben Joravsky, meanwhile, notes in a new piece that under ex-CEO Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools sent 1,289 teachers packing last summer, a move the Chicago Teachers Union is battling in federal court. The district has hired all but 554 of the teachers back, a group that includes instructors who had "national board certification, one of the most prestigious designations in education, and had been honored by Mayor Daley and the [education board]." Of the nearly 1,300 teachers Huberman fired, "only 40 of the 1,300 or so teachers fired in the purge had less than a satisfactory rating, according to CPS records," Joravsky writes.