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  • 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 23: Press availability via Zoom.

CICS management continues to hoard $35 million in public education funds, while proposing layoffs that will undercut students’ educations, derail ability to support special needs students.

CHICAGOCTU members at three out of four unionized charter schools overseen by charter operator CICS are battling against a devastating round of proposed layoffs that would target 30 workers—over 15% of CICS’ unionized workforce. Management is proposing those cuts even as they continue to show an annual surplus of $800,000 and hoard more than $35 million in public education funds that they’ve refused to spend on student needs.

The proposed cuts at Chicago Quest, Wrightwood and Ellison come on the heels of a strike against CICS in winter of 2019 that forced the charter operator to contractually commit to spending more of its education dollars from CPS on classroom needs.

Unionized rank and file CTU members at CICS schools will meet with CICS management on Tuesday, and will hold a press availability at 1:30 p.m. via Zoom to lay out why these layoffs are both harmful and unnecessary.

87% of the staff that CICS is proposing to lay off or let go are Black educators. 90% or more of the students at Wrightwood, Ellison, and Quest identify as Black. Yet even as Mayor Lightfoot and CPS tout their commitment to equity for Black and Brown communities, Black educators will bear the brunt of these layoffs. Educators charge that CICS’ staffing cuts represent another attempt at union busting, even as management continues to ignore student needs.

Between CICS’s ample reserves and budgeted surplus, all of the proposed job cuts could be eliminated. 15 people at CICS earn over $100,000/year, with CICS CEO Elizabeth Shaw earns nearly as much as CPS CEO Janice Jackson—$245,000—to oversee a handful of schools.

  • CPS is cutting Wrightwood’s budget by 1.2%—roughly $100,00—but CICS’ wholly owned management company CEP is cutting $436,000 in personnel.
  • If layoffs go through, Ellison will field five administrators for a teaching staff of 11 next year. CTU members are demanding that CICS cut its bloated bureaucracy before cutting teachers, paraprofessionals, and deans who directly work with students.
  • At schools like Wrightwood and Ellison, the proposed cuts put special education students are at risk of being denied federally mandated services.
  • At Quest, CICS is cutting the only school/college counselor, leaving no designated worker to help students through the college application process; and management is cutting the only remaining founding staff member of the school, who has dedicated the last nine years to Quest students, by “redefining” the qualifications for that teaching position.

These staff cuts are particularly alarming in the era of COVID-19, when it will be crucial to have more rather than less staff in buildings to allow for safe social distancing via smaller class sizes.

The size of CICS’ bloated bureaucracy remains virtually unchanged, yet CICS has refused to make cuts at the management level BEFORE cuts to schools. CICS continues to hoard over $35 million public education dollars in ‘reserve’, and runs a surplus each year. Last year during bargaining, CICS claimed they could not afford the new CTU contract, while they ran an annual surplus of nearly $300,000. This year CICS has budgeted over $800,000 in surplus funds.

CICS has used CPS’ racist ‘student-based budgeting’ scheme as a pretext to slash staff at schools with lower enrollment, further undermining student programming at those schools at a time when school communities need more resources, not less. Even at Wrightwood, which is expected to meet enrollment targets, classroom supports will be slashed.