Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett revealed her five-year vision for the embattled district on Monday, leading some educators to fear the plan may result in hundreds of teacher layoffs.
“Every child in every community deserves a high-quality education in a safe learning environment with rich and robust investments that will give them all the tools they need to be successful in school and throughout life,” Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.
The plan includes five strategic "pillars," though it's the last pillar — "Sound fiscal, operational and accountability systems" — that has some district employees on edge.
The announcement comes just weeks after the school board approved the closure of 50 schools — the single largest single-wave planned public school closure in U.S. history.
On Friday, the Philadelphia School District notified more than 3,000 employees of layoffs after it decided to close 24 schools and convert three more into charters back in March, the Sun-Times reports. CPS teachers are paying close attention to what that could mean within their own ranks.
“Seeing what happened in Philadelphia, we are definitely concerned,” said Jackson Potter, a staff coordinator with the Chicago Teachers Union.
The district had attributed the massive school closings in part to what it says is a $1 billion budget deficit, but the district's recent failure to persuade state lawmakers into opting for another pension holiday has worsened the crisis. According to the Tribune, the district faces an additional $412 million in pension payments in the coming year, along with a new per-pupil-based budgeting system.
Potter told Fox that, based on the city's deficit and jobs lost due to school closings, the city could see 6,000 layoffs in all; last school year, CPS recorded 41,498 employees.
The plan, of which CPS has had provided a small snapshot, includes the "strategies, policies, and supports needed to ensure every child in every community receives the high-quality education they deserve," Fox Chicago reports.
“There seems to be a disturbing notion that our kids aren’t worth spending the money on, let’s just cut back their services,” Jackson said. “We’re seeing that in Chicago. We’re definitely seeing that here. And we’re of course watching what’s happening in Chicago.”
CTU President Karen Lewis blasted the plan in a statement Monday.
“Our schools communities do not lack inspiration, they lack revenue," Lewis said. "It doesn’t matter what new initiatives CPS concocts from year to year if it has no way to appropriately fund them (i.e., the longer school day). Chicago has to break its addiction to tax-breaks and find ways to generate revenue for our schools,” Lewis said.
“This so-called five-year plan is once again done in the silo of CPS without any stakeholders at the table. It is still widely driven by testing and a complete lack of democracy."