The Chicago Public Schools announced the issuance of three furlough days for employees during the remainder of the school year.
The move amounts to a 1.6 percent pay cut for teachers, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. The district anticipates saving $30 million as a result of the furloughs.
"Unfortunately, as he's made clear in recent weeks, Governor Rauner is more interested in forcing bankruptcy and taking over our schools than in addressing the unequal funding issues that hurt districts like ours across the state. We know we cannot cut our way to a solution. However, the Governor's inaction means we must continue to cut costs and ease our cash flow, so we can do what's necessary to ensure our classrooms are protected and our students' progress is uninterrupted," CPS CEO Forrest Claypool wrote in a letter to district employees Thursday.
CTU President Karen Lewis said the furloughs "only strengthens our resolve to shut down the school district on April 1st."
"The mayor is already seeking a 7 percent pay cut and today's directive adds another reduction in salary and benefits. They should have never extended the school year in the first place if they couldn't afford to do so," she added, referring to the controversial battle for a longer school day, which was part of the impetus for the 2012 teachers' strike. The 7 percent pay cut Lewis mentions is in regards to the pension pickup paid by the district, which was put in teacher contracts back in 1981 "in lieu of salary increases," according to CTU. " If CPS does not pay the 7 percent, teachers must pay this pension fund requirement themselves. Such action would therefore constitute a pay cut and therefore would make a strike permissible under an interpretation of state law," a release by the teachers' union claims.
Meanwhile, one of the furlough days will be March 25, which is Good Friday. Claypool said the large number of teachers planning to take the day off for the holiday led to the decision to furlough that day instead of having schools hold all-day assemblies or show movies as a means to alleviate the load that was set to be placed on schools as some 8,000 teachers were reportedly planning to skip work that day.
"After hearing from many principals that they were concerned about staff capacity on Good Friday, which normally falls during Spring Break, we determined the best course of action was a furlough day, combined with non-instructional year-end days." Claypool said. "It's never easy to furlough employees, but our priority was to preserve instructional time for our students while preserving year-end cash and continuing to chip away at our budget gap."
For teachers and other school-based staff, the other two furlough days will fall during professional development days so as not to interrupt classroom time, according to CPS. Central and Network office staffers will have their two furlough days during spring break when schools are not in session.