Facing a $215 million budget shortfall, Chicago Public Schools officials have announced that all employees will be required to take four unpaid furlough days later this year on dates when children aren’t scheduled to be in class.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the school district estimates that the action will save $35 million. The employees will be furloughed on Feb. 3, April 7, June 21 and June 22. Those had been scheduled as in-service professional development days for teachers.
The school system was relying on $215 million in pension money that the state legislature allocated, but Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the legislation in December.
Similar budget woes last year led the school system to impose three unpaid furlough days in the second semester of 2015-16.
District officials have said they’ll try to plug the funding gap in the least disruptive manner possible to schools.
“As we address [the district's] financial challenges, we have two goals: minimize classroom disruptions and restore funding,” CEO Forrest Claypool said in an email. “Since Gov. Rauner is denying fair funding to Chicago students, we are forced to make cuts that will create new challenges for schools that are working to build on their academic gains.”
The governor's spokeswoman criticized Chicago officials for budgeting money the school system didn’t have, but said the governor would consider the legislation again if the General Assembly were to pass statewide “pension reform” measures.
The Chicago Teachers Union expressed outrage at what amounts to a 2 percent pay cut.
"The four days in question...are professional development days that are vital for teachers to complete administrative tasks, so by imposing furlough days, the district is essentially asking its employees to work for free or risk falling behind on critical in-school functions," the union says in a prepared statement.
The union says Claypool and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, while blaming the governor, "have been stubborn and ineffective in pushing for the resources to properly fund our schools.
"[B]oth Claypool and Mayor Emanuel supported unconstitutional pension reform efforts, filled district budget holes with money they knew would never materialize, and then slashed school-level budgets beyond the bone," the union contends.