06/15/2010 04:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Chicago School Board Votes To Allow 35 Students Per Classroom, 2,700 Teacher Layoffs Possible (VIDEO)

Despite protests from students, parents and teachers, the Chicago School Board voted unanimously to allow Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman to make major changes to the system Tuesday.

The board approved Huberman's emergency budget plan, which could lead to 2,700 teacher layoffs and give district officials the power to raise class sizes to up to 35 students.

Before the vote, parents and teachers gathered in the streets--urging the board to vote against the plan. Huberman said he had no other choice, as the plan allows CPS to take out a line of credit of up to $800 million to cover $420 million in late state aid payments this school year. State funding for the next school year is uncertain as well, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"It is not without significant stress that I present these alternatives, however the urgent and dire nature of this crisis has left us no choice," Huberman said at Tuesday's meeting, according to NBC Chicago. "These concessions are the only way to avoid the threat of strike. The current budget deficit provides no alternative."

Chicago Teachers Union president-elect Karen Lewis disagrees.

"I realize the state hasn't done what they're supposed to do, but I think we can do better," Lewis said at Tuesday's meeting.

The state hasn't done much of anything. After passing a budget that relies on putting off bills and more borrowing, local school districts are owed more than $1 billion. Lewis, however, said there is a lot of waste that could be cut--and massive class sizes could be avoided.

Late last month, the Chicago Reader investigated the hiring under Huberman's watch, explaining that since current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan left CPS, Huberman has hired new administrators who make more than $100,000.

From the story:

I begrudge none of these individuals their salaries on a personal level. (Well, maybe a few.) What I have a hard time with is the cuts to sports, the firing of teachers, the class size hikes, and the horrendously inadequate programs in music, drama, and art. If I were in charge, I'd wouldn't let any of the bureaucrats make more than the highest-paid teacher, which is currently less than $120,000. By my count, 104 CPS bureaucrats are paid more than that right now.

There is some anger directed at the teacher's unions as well, who have been unwilling to give up pay raises.

The Sun-Times explains another element of Tuesday's vote:

At the same time, Huberman will be asking Board members to vote on a resolution stating that the district has the money to cover four percent raises for the CTU and seven other unions. The move blocks teachers from striking over pay, while still allowing teachers to offer to give up pay hikes for reduced class size.

Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, told the paper that Tuesday's vote "raises questions about the financial reasonableness of the Chicago Public Schools."

"There's no way they can afford those raises at a time when there's such instability in Springfield and they face enormous financial challenges,'' Msall said. "The pay raises have to be on the table. To treat those as sacrosanct over class size is not financially reasonable and is financially risky.''

WATCH CTU president-elect Karen Lewis discuss the vote--and her suggestions for fixing the district's budget woes--here:

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