CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago public schools may not have to adopt a rehiring procedure for more than 700 laid-off tenured teachers, the 7th Circuit ruled, vacating its earlier opinion for a rehearing and punting the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Facing budget deficits in June 2003, the Chicago Board of Education “honorably discharged” 1,289 teachers and recalled 715 after receiving increased federal funding in 2010. Laid-off teachers who were not rehired complained that vacancies were going to new hires instead of laid-off tenured teachers because the board did not have a formal recall procedure.
The Chicago Teachers Union and American Federation of Teachers filed suit, asserting the teachers’ alleged property interest in their jobs. A federal judge eventually granted a permanent injunction, requiring the board to create a recall procedure, and a split panel of the 7th Circuit affirmed the decision in April.
Currently the order is stayed pending the final outcome of the appeal.
The court wrote that Illinois law gives teachers a property right to their employment, incurring Due Process protection under the 14th Amendment. Teachers must be given a “meaningful opportunity” to show that they were qualified to fill the vacancies, the majority wrote.
On Monday, the panel vacated its decision in favor of a rehearing by the full court. The judges also certified three questions to the Illinois Supreme Court, noting that state courts have not been given the opportunity to weigh in on the case because a federal judge had granted the injunction.
“The federal injunction means that there will be no opportunity for a state court to correct our interpretation of state law if it is erroneous, even though the issue is one of substantial and ongoing importance,” according to the eight-page order.
The Illinois Supreme Court will review whether the “permanent” employment status granted by the Illinois School Code’s tenure provision gives teachers the right to be rehired after an economic layoff.
Until then, the order to create recall procedures remains stayed.