CPS announces four more furlough days


Courtesy of Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune

Denise Azadeh, Features Editor

On Friday, Jan. 13, Chicago Public Schools announced they would be requiring teachers to take four unpaid furlough days over the next five months in order to save an estimated $35 million. The announcement of unpaid furlough days comes for the second time in as many school years for CPS. This year’s furlough days fall on previously scheduled school improvement days and will not affect students. The dates are February 3, April 7, June 21, and June 22.


The decision to mandate unpaid furlough days was in response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a plan in early December which would have allocated $215 million of state funding towards pensions for CPS teachers. Rauner said he would reconsider giving the funds to CPS if the Illinois General Assembly would pass a plan for statewide pension reform. To some, his comment would seem to imply that he is using the education of hundreds of thousands of Chicago students as a political bargaining piece.


Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said, “Just like the cuts to special education, school closings and a host of other atrocities, this is another example of Rahm and his board balancing the budget by taking from students and educators.” Additionally, the CTU is blaming Mayor Emanuel and CPS Chief Executive Forrest Claypool for creating a budget modeled around funds that they didn’t have.


Catherine Kelly, a spokeswoman for the governor, mirrored these sentiments, blaming the city “for decades of fiscal mismanagement and bad decision-making.” She emphasized the fact that the city created their budgets to include $215 million from the state knowing that the money was contingent upon stipulations about pension reform that were in limbo.


In an effort to scrounge up money, Mayor Emanuel allocated $88 million in surplus TIF funds for CPS in his 2017 Budget. Griffin Lynch ‘17 says he thinks it’s not enough, and that many of the TIF funds being spent on other projects in Chicago should be re-allocated to CPS. “Instead of being invested like [TIF funds] were supposed to be they’re being pumped into those places that are fine,” said Lynch. He referenced the DePaul Stadium, which Emmanuel had previously planned on spending $55 million in TIF funds on before the public outcry forced the mayor to rescind his offer.


As for teachers, four unpaid furlough days does not mean four less days of work. Three of the four previously scheduled school improvement days had been put aside at the end of each semester in order to give teachers time to put in final grades. The elimination of these days means that teachers will still have to grade semester exams and enter scores, but they will be doing so without getting paid for their work. WY social science teacher, Alayna Washington, says that although she isn’t surprised at the news, “it’s very disheartening” to have avoided a strike and come to a contract agreement just to have this happen.


When boiled down to dollars and cents, the unpaid furlough days mean an average pay decrease for teachers of around 2%. According to employee position files (the latest of which was updated 6 weeks ago), the average CPS teacher makes $61,146 every school year, which for teachers lasts 190 days. Four unpaid days means an average pay cut of about $1300. One anonymous WY teacher remarked, “I am just questioning why the mayor would push for a longer school year and longer school days if he knew that CPS couldn’t afford them.”


Though the Chicago Teachers Union has made it very clear how they feel about the situation, their statements thus far have been focused on holding Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Claypool accountable for their actions. Currently, it does not look like the teachers or their union plan on striking, and for the sake of students and teachers it will stay that way.