Teachers say CPS budget creates financial crisis

July 12, 2012

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(Becky Vevea/WBEZ)
CPS Chief Operating Officer Tim Cawley gives a presentation on the district's budget at Malcolm X College Wednesday night.

Teachers at Chicago Public Schools claim the district is creating a financial crisis to justify underpaying them.

More than 100 people showed up at Malcolm X College on the city’s West Side Wednesday night to complain about that and other changes in the CPS budget.

The district plans to drain its reserves to close the $665 million deficit it’s facing. That move has already prompted a downgrade of CPS’s credit rating.

Lorraine Chavez, a parent and supporter of the teachers union, said she thinks the district intentionally used up all its money.

“You are creating an emergency so that you can then turn around next year or the year after that and tell the Chicago Teachers Union, ‘Well, we just don’t have money for you,’” Chavez said.

Norine Gutekanst, an organizer with the union, says the budget sets the stage for large-scale school closures in the next year.

Steven Ashby, an expert in labor relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago, thinks the board’s actions indicate they want to provoke a strike.

But CPS’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Cawley says, “Anyone who thinks that we want a strike is just flat-out wrong.”

CPS may have to go back to the drawing board anyway because the district and teachers haven’t reached a contract agreement. An independent mediator is set to release recommendations for that contract on Monday.

The hearing at Malcom X was one of three held across the city Wednesday evening. For those who missed them, CPS is holding a telephone town hall next week Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.