The Chicago school district has ordered three unpaid furlough days for its employees as it continues to seek ways to cut expenses and close an immense budget deficit.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool announced the furlough plan, which is projected to save the school system about $30 million. Other budget cuts already carried out for 2015-16 have saved the school system more than $120 million, district officials say.
The furlough days for school-based workers will be handled differently from Central Office and Network Office staff. will not work on furlough days and will not be paid for the furlough days. Good Friday—March 25—will be a furlough day for all employees. School-based employees will have two non-instructional professional development days converted to furloughs in June, and Central and Network Office staff will be furloughed for two days in April, while schools are on Spring Break.
The announcement sparked condemnation from Chicago teachers, who say the cuts, which amount to a 1.6 percent salary reduction, make it more likely that they will go out on strike next month.
The furlough announcement “only strengthens our resolve to shut down the school district on April 1,” Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said. “The mayor is already seeking a 7 percent pay cut, and today’s directive adds another reduction in salary and benefits. They should have never extended the school year in the first place if they couldn’t afford to do so.”
The district estimated that as many as 8,000 staff members, about quadruple the daily average, already had planned to take Good Friday off work.
“After hearing from many principals that they were concerned about staff capacity on Good Friday, which normally falls during Spring Break, we determined the best course of action was a furlough day, combined with non-instructional year-end days.” Claypool said. “It’s never easy to furlough employees, but our priority was to preserve instructional time for our students while preserving year-end cash and continuing to chip away at our budget gap.”
The school system has been trying to find ways to close a budget deficit that was $480 million at the beginning of the school year. Relief from the Illinois legislature has not been forthcoming as lawmakers and the governor have been unable to agree on a state budget.