After CTU Rejects Contract Offer, CPS Warns Of Layoffs

CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after the Chicago Teachers Union turned down a four-year contract offer from the Chicago Public Schools, CEO Forrest Claypool warned the union it will be moving forward with a plan for layoffs.

“I was very disappointed to hear that the CTU’s large bargaining team rejected the January 29, 2016 tentative agreements after the very long and arduous work of our respective negotiations,” Claypool wrote in a letter to CTU President Karen Lewis.

Claypool said he has directed the CPS negotiating team to meet with the union team and a mediator as soon as possible in an effort to find “a positive path forward.”

“Unfortunately, however, the Board can no longer stay its hand in implementing significant cost-savings measures,” Claypool added.

Claypool gave the union 30 days notice that he would be directing CPS officials to draw up a “reduction in force plan” to save $50 million through layoffs “to occur as soon as practicable.” The district will seek to save an additional $50 million through cuts to school funding.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Claypool said the school support staff would bear the brunt of layoffs, so CPS could avoid laying off teachers.

“I really want to emphasize something strongly here, we do not want to do this,” he said.

A letter from Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis providing 30-day notice of layoffs and other cuts.

A letter from Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis providing 30-day notice of layoffs and other cuts.

Claypool also said he would be discontinuing the district’s so-called “pension pickup” in 30 days, in order to save another $130 million a year.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, CTU president Karen Lewis everyone who works in Chicago’s public schools faces a “clear and present danger” and called the cuts “retaliatory.”

“CPS has a revenue problem based on debt service, toxic swap termination payments, charter expansion and their underfunding of our pensions,” Lewis said. “This is a problem they created, not the teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians who work extremely hard every day under often deplorable conditions”

Lewis said that CTU would be withdrawing $700,000 from its account with Bank of America on Wednesday and would be holding a rally at LaSalle and Adams at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. In addition, they are ready to file an Unfair Labor Practice, which would allow them to strike immediately.

“Claypool’s threat continues to harm the most vulnerable students, those who require special education,” Lewis said. “Why are they playing ping-pong with the neediest students.”

Both Claypool and Lewis insisted that both sides will remain at the bargaining table.

In response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s push for the state to take over Chicago Public Schools, Lewis said, “He has no budget, he has no authority, but he’s going to do this? Please don’t pay any attention to the ravings a madman because that’s what he is.”

Since 1981, the city has agreed to pay for 7 percentage points of the 9 percent pension contribution for every CTU member. The contract offer rejected by CTU would have phased out the pension pickup over the next 18 months.

“These actions are necessary for the financial health of the district and are being implemented because we no longer have a choice but to implement them,” Claypool wrote.

In a statement, the union called the district’s announcement “an act of intimidation and bullying because teachers refused to accept a flawed contract offer.”

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