By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) – Hundreds of Chicago Teachers Union members gathered in Grant Park Monday in hopes of moving along a stalled labor contract with the Chicago Board of Education – and preventing massive budget cuts and layoffs.

“Right now, negotiations are stuck on neutral, and they’re going nowhere,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told reporters before the rally. “We have not seen negotiating in good faith by the Board of Ed. We’ve been at it for more than a year … It’s time to move this thing.”

Sharkey said historically the only way teachers have gotten the attention of public officials is through striking.

Chicago Public Schools officials say pension obligations are forcing their hand to cut expenses early next year, and they have implored feuding state leaders for financial help. Without an infusion of money, layoffs are estimated at 5,000 employees.

School officials said negotiations are ongoing with the union.

“We are in the middle of good faith bargaining discussions with our partners at the CTU. At CPS, we are looking for a solution, not a strike. It’s a sad day when the CTU won’t join us in Springfield to fight for equal funding for Chicago’s schoolchildren, who receive $3 for every $4 that students in other districts receive,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a prepared statement.

Melanie Neuhaus has been teaching at Ogden Elementary School for three years. With little seniority if CPS cuts jobs in order to balance the budget, Neuhaus could get a pink slip, CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports.

“I pay my own rent. I live in the city. It could be a scary thought, all of a sudden, in the middle of the year, not having a job anymore,” she says.

She wouldn’t be alone. With more than 800 students,  Ogden Principal Mike Beyers figures his school’s share of a budget cut would mean $1 million. He may have to lay off between five and 10 teachers, if that holds true, he says.

This would be the second round of cuts for schools. Beyers was able save two teachers in October, when parents raised $175,000. But even this fairly affluent community is tapped out.

“I’d be hard pressed to go back to them, again in the same school, year right before the holidays,” he says. “That’s just not going to happen.”

If Ogden, or any school, has to absorb the cuts, fewer teachers means larger classes — from 30 to  maybe as many as 40 students per class.

 

 

Dorothy Tucker