CHICAGO (CBS) — Action is being taken to stop millions of dollars in payouts to Chicago Public Schools employees who retire or resign.
The Board of Education voted Wednesday to end a sick-day policy for non-union employees that cost the system about $15 million a year. Union employees were not affected by the vote.
CBS 2’s Dave Savini first exposed the big bucks shelled out each year for unused sick and vacation time.
“We are recommending substantive changes in the way our sick day policy works in the future,” said Alicia Winkler, from CPS’ talent office.
The money being doled out is big. CBS 2 investigators uncovered more than $267 million, since 2006, was paid out for unused sick and vacation time.
“The totals a significant liability for the organization,” said Winkler.
Administrators are getting big checks like Ascencion Juarez who received more than $250,000 in sick and vacation pay when he retired. When asked whether he thinks CPS is overall paying out too much for this benefit, Juarez replied: “I can’t answer. I don’t know. It’s the system. It’s the policy that was there.”
Teachers and administrators say the saving of unused time has been critical.
“There has been no maternity policy there,” said Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. “There has been no short-term, long-term sickness policy.”
The CPS board now proposes adding maternity and disability benefits for more than 3,100 non-union employees.
The objective now is save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the future and stopping payouts like the one former CPS administrator Barbara Eason-Watkins received of more than $239,000 in sick and vacation pay when she left.
Jitu Brown, a local school council member, says our CBS 2 investigation shook things up.
“That’s good. I think they are doing damage control,” said Brown who supports teachers getting the benefit. “Teachers are grossly underpaid.”
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says the payouts were created to make up for a lack of raises.
“So when you get to this end, when people are starting to actually cash them in, it’s like ‘oh this is such a big deal’,” said Lewis.
Union employees are not impacted by the new policy and can still accrue time.
The question is, will CPS try to change this policy for union employees too?
“We’ll have that discussion when we get to that,” said Lewis.
These sick and vacation day payments have a future liability of $450 million to CPS. More than half, $250 million is earmarked for non-union employees.
Previously earned days will not be taken away from employees. However, starting next school year, employees will not be able to roll over sick days. Vacation day accruals are being cut from the maximum 66 days down to 30 days.