When Chicago Public Schools officials announced Thursday that the district will be laying off more than 2,000 employees – including 1,036 teachers – Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis issued a press release that made no mention of the role the CTU played in creating CPS’s $1 billion deficit.
These important facts were missing:
- The CTU supported all of the pension holidays the city took in exchange for an enormous increase in salaries – 80 percent over 10 years, before taking into account pay raises that result from more experience and education. These holidays shortchanged the pension system, making the funding hole bigger in the future.
- CTU members barely contribute to their own pensions. CTU members only pay 2 percent of their paychecks each pay period toward their retirement – CPS pays the other 7 percent. This cost the district $127 million last year – money that could have been used to shore up its massive deficit.
- The CTU’s plan to repair CPS’s finances is completely unrealistic. The union is calling for a local income tax for all workers in Chicago and a financial transaction tax that will damage Chicago’s already-struggling economy. Over the last decade, more than 200,000 people left the city, and policies like these will only encourage more out-migration.
Instead of addressing these points, Lewis doubled down on talking points that have been repeated so often that they no longer carry any weight:
“Once again, CPS has lied to parents, employees and the public about keeping the new school-based budget cuts away from the classroom […] these cuts are unnecessary and shameful for a system that prides itself on providing a high-quality education for our students.”
News of the layoffs should have surprised no one, let alone Lewis.
She knew the district was in bad financial shape when she asked for a massive raise for CTU members in contracts negotiations last fall, even though they were already some of the highest-paid teachers in the county – earning an average salary of more than $74,000 a year.
Lewis went through with these raises, despite knowing that they would probably result in school closings and layoffs. She’s got to know the math.
It’s time for Lewis and her fellow CTU members to deal with reality.
This means recognizing that a dramatic increase in revenue will not occur this year, that CPS’s pension system will not be bailed out by the state or federal government and that CTU members may have to take pay cuts or agree to pension reform to save their jobs.
If the CTU doesn’t want to deal with this reality, they can continue pushing the same policies they’ve pushed for years. But they should know full well where that road will lead – to more layoffs and more closings.
Josh Dwyer is Director of Education Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute