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July 2010, Week 4

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Sat, 24 Jul 2010 23:56:14 -0400
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Chicago Teachers Laid Off in Droves 
By Kari Lydersen
In These Times
July 23, 2010
http://www.inthesetimes.org/working/entry/6257/chicago_teachers_laid_off_in_droves/

Chicago teachers who spent time training their own
replacements are among hundreds who received layoff
notices this week. In all, up to 1,500 Chicago teachers
may be laid off by the time the new school year begins.
The newly elected Chicago Teachers Union leadership and
about 30 rank and file members are meeting with school
officials Friday afternoon.

The 600 lay-off notices sent out this week went to 400
teachers and 200 staff at elementary schools which start
in early August. On June 30, 239 teachers who were not
assigned to a specific school were laid off. The union
has demanded they be hired back before any new teachers
are hired.

The cuts are part of the school district's efforts to
address a $370 million budget shortfall. High-school
classes are being increased from 28 to 33 students, and
programs including world languages, bilingual education,
gifted programs and after school programs are being cut.

Teachers and youth advocates say increasing class sizes
and chopping after school programs is especially
devastating given the violence that has plagued Chicago
public school students in recent years, including the
highly publicized beating death of Fenger High School
student Derrion Albert last fall. After-school programs
are among the ways youth advocates and parents hope to
give students a safe haven and an alternative to gang
activity. And more crowded classes mean a more tense and
dangerous environment for students and teachers.

Schools chief Ron Huberman has essentially blamed the
union for a portion of the cuts, saying $135 million
could be saved if they agreed to relinquish promised 4
percent pay raises. New union president Karen Lewis
countered that the union has already made concessions,
including hits to their pensions. She has said
concessions by the union would set a bad precedent and
take the pressure off state officials to provide funding
by changing the school funding formula.

Community groups and teachers have also long demanded
that schools be reimbursed tax dollars that have been
diverted by TIFs (tax increment financing zones), the
controversial so-called urban renewal program wherein
the property taxes that go to schools and parks are
frozen and any increases over the next 23 years are
funneled to private development.

In Chicago, most of the city, including wealthy downtown
neighborhoods, are covered by TIFs, which are supposed
to be a tool used only in "blighted" areas. The union
says as much as half a billion a year that should have
gone in part to schools was diverted by TIFs. The money
often ends up in the hands of politically connected
developers and other private for-profit projects.

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