Chicago Schools Layoff Close To 1,000 Staff

empty school
KT King / Flickr
empty school
KT King / Flickr

Chicago Schools Layoff Close To 1,000 Staff

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Chicago Public Schools is laying off nearly 1,000 staff.

Principals began notifying affected teachers and support staff Friday morning. In total, district officials say 494 teachers, including 256 with tenure, and 492 support staff got word their jobs would be cut. Most of them — 654 positions — were at high schools. 

“Today’s staffing changes are part of the normal process of school planning, and there are more vacant positions in the district than staff who will be impacted today,” said district spokeswoman Emily Bittner.

Roughly 1,000 teaching vacancies still need to be filled, Bittner said in an email. The district expects many laid-off staff will be rehired after three district career fairs next week. They are scheduled for August 10, 11 and 17. 

A breakdown of the layoffs by school was not immediately available. Bittner said 280 schools saw no staff cuts. 

Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin criticized the move, saying it’s “no way to run a 21st century school district.” 

“This latest round of layoffs come when Mayor Emanuel is seeking more tax hikes from Chicago’s working families while he continues to ignore demands that he go after wealthy developers and others who enrich themselves at the public’s expense,” Gadlin wrote. 

Among those laid off was Tim Meegan, a history teacher at Roosevelt High School in Albany Park who ran for alderman of the 33rd Ward last year. The election nearly went into a runoff. But Meegan ultimately lost to Deb Mell. Mell was appointed to succeed her father, Richard Mell, who served as 33rd Ward Alderman from 1975 to 2013.

“I’m real, real proud of Roosevelt High School and my students and my colleagues who work miracles under impossible circumstances,” Meegan said over the phone Friday. 

Roosevelt is slated to lose $1.5 million this year. That’s on top of $1.1 million lost in 2013, about $900,000 cut over the summer in 2014, and $1.8 million slashed last year. 

“I’m less concerned about my own welfare and I’m concerned about my students and my school. I mean, what’s going to happen?” he said. “Unfortunately, I see nothing but a slow painful death for public schools in Chicago.”

The city’s public high schools have been struggling with enrollment for the last several years. Some schools have lost so much enrollment, they can barely provide a basic education. Schools receive money based on how many students are enrolled. 

Roosevelt’s enrollment is projected to be around 1,100 students next fall, down from nearly 2,000 when Meegan started in 2004. He says he knew he would be the next one cut from the social studies department, so he went looking for new jobs in June. 

And just hours after that layoff phone call, Meegan got a phone call from a high school in Mankato, Minnesota, offering him a position as AP Human Geography and World History teacher. He accepted.

Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her @WBEZeducation.