Chicago Teachers Challenge Mass Layoffs

     CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago’s Board of Education plans to lay off 850 tenured teachers and support staff, including “some of the city’s best and most experienced teachers,” without assessing each of their “qualifications, certifications, experience and performance ratings,” the Chicago Teachers Union claims in Federal Court. The union wants to block the layoffs, claiming they violate the teachers’ due process rights.

     “[T]he Board is planning en masse summary dismissals without any recall rights of qualified teachers having excellent or superior evaluations with no individualized consideration as to whether such qualified teachers should be retained and reassigned in preference to others,” the union claims.
     “Absent such consideration and in violation of the seniority rights of tenured teachers, the board is hiring new untested teachers off the street and keeping less expensive probationary teachers with little or no experience.”
     The union says the board has already effectively axed the program for elite literacy coaches, while “far less qualified and less expensive teachers have been retained in the schools where they used to teach.”
     The union claims its collective bargaining agreement requires the board to keep teachers based on “system-wide seniority,” and teachers must be “placed in a reassigned teacher pool due to ‘school closings, consolidations, reconstitution, drop in enrollment and phase out'” and should be “afforded interim and/or permanent teaching positions for up to 10 months before they may be dismissed.”
     The board has told reporters that the summary dismissals mostly include teachers with “unsatisfactory” evaluations, though the union claims those are a small minority of the teachers being let go.
     It says the board has actually laid off and plans to lay off several teachers with excellent evaluations, though the board had promised that Chicago public schools would “only reach into the very bottom of the evaluation ratings to lay off teachers.”
     Last month, the board sent more than 600 lay-off notices to teachers, other educators and staff, according to the lawsuit, and intends to dismiss a total of 1,500 employees before the school year begins.
     The board has pushed many experienced teachers to take an early retirement in order to reduce its “liability for higher pension benefits,” sometimes giving them as few as three days to make the decision under the threat of losing their sick days if they don’t retire, the union claims.
     Chicago’s public school students will ultimately face larger class sizes and “teachers less qualified than those now being laid off,” the union says.
     The school district is issuing the layoffs in attempt to reduce its $370 million deficit, according to Fox News Chicago.
     The union demands an injunction blocking the board from laying off teachers without fair and full individual evaluations.
     Defendants are the Chicago Board of Education; board members Norman Bobins, Tariq Butt, Roxanne Ward, Peggy Davis and Alberto Carrero, Jr.; board president Mary Richardson Lowery; and Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
     Lead counsel is Thomas Geoghegan of Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan.

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