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Lightfoot’s CPS team to lay off over 400 educators in some of city’s hardest-hit South, West Side neighborhoods, despite $1.8 billion in federal supports to prevent layoffs, support students.

CHICAGO, June 21, 2021Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today to rank and file CTU members, in response to plans by Mayor Lightfoot’s CPS team to lay off 443 rank and file educators and support staff:

Sisters and Brothers:

We received the Chicago Public Schools layoff list today. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the district are imposing 443 layoffs on CPS educators and staff at a time when the district is set to receive nearly $2 billion in federal COVID support — designed expressly to prevent this kind of action.

Let that sink in. Our students and their families need more support, and not less.

The mayor continues to be a walking contradiction through her actions, and a classic example of how symbolic gestures ring hollow. On Friday, she declared racism to be a public health crisis in many Chicago communities disproportionately burdened with poverty, unemployment, housing insecurity and violence.

Today, she’s destabilizing those same communities by laying off educators at neighborhood schools.

President Joe Biden sent these funds to CPS specifically to help the district recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on school location, the highest number of layoffs by ZIP code is in North and South Lawndale, which was also disproportionately devastated by COVID infection and death, and where families successfully defeated a CPS attempt last year to close three neighborhood schools.

The mayor’s plan to gut staffing at schools she had previously threatened to close exposes the hypocrisy at the root of these layoffs.

Some of our strongest rank-and-file members are among those being laid off. School clerk Deanna Myron, who spoke publicly about the need to accommodate educators with medically vulnerable household members, has gotten a pink slip. So has teacher assistant Willie Cousins, who was also one of our most active PSRP leaders during the 2019 strike. We know of other members, including delegates, who’ve been targeted. In some cases, whole schools have been targeted, with half a dozen layoffs at King College Prep in what we think may be an effort to instead bring in (non-union) ROTC-funded positions bankrolled by the federal government directly, instead of CPS.

These workers were so essential a year ago that the mayor and CPS tried to force them back before school safety guardrails were in place. Yet today, they’re disposable.

Fortunately, we have longstanding contractual rights that protect laid off members. Specifically, Appendix H, Section 5 of the contract provides that all tenured teachers laid off for any reason (except those with “unsatisfactory” ratings) are guaranteed placement in the reassigned teacher pool, or a full-time teacher vacancy for which they are qualified, at full salary and benefits for a full school year. With respect to PSRPs, Appendix I, Section E guarantees all laid-off PSRPs rated “developing” or better a right to placement in vacant PSRP positions for which they are qualified that exist on the 20th day of the school year.

We will vigorously oppose every layoff, including those that are retaliatory. If you’ve received a layoff notice, contact your field rep immediately so that we can initiate the legal and grievance process.

Again, our students need more support today, not less, as hundreds of thousands of working class Chicago families continue to struggle to recover from the consequences of the pandemic. Yet the mayor’s handpicked board of education seems determined to continue to practice business as usual, when business as usual before the pandemic was far less than what our students need and deserve.

Be clear: We will fight these layoffs at this Wednesday’s board meeting, we will fight them in bargaining and we’ll fight them in school actions, as necessary.

Watch your email for news and next steps, and again, immediately contact your field rep if you’ve received a layoff notice. Our unity and our advocacy kept us safe and secure this year in an unprecedented time of challenge. It is our unity that will allow us to fight back against this latest needless round of cuts.

And when we fight, we win.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
President, Chicago Teachers Union

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.