Chicago’s cash-strapped school district won’t realize at least $60 million in annual savings that officials hoped would help balance future budgets.
This comes as the district already is struggling with a major deficit this year that could force the closure of schools three weeks early for summer.
Chicago Public Schools officials confirmed Tuesday that too few teachers and staff have enrolled in a retirement incentive program that would have saved the district substantial cash over time. The retirement incentive program is part of the Chicago Teachers Union’s contract that was settled last October.
The retirement incentive program was one way the district tried to sell the contract as a good deal for taxpayers. Initially, it would have cost the district as it paid out bonuses to retirees, but getting veteran, higher-paid teachers and aides off the district’s payroll could have produced up to $90 million, CPS originally estimated. Districts have since reduced their estimates to $63 million.
To make the program work,1,500 teachers and 600 aides had to sign up. But only 840 teachers and 300 aides raised their hands by the March 31 deadline, according to CPS.
Some teachers worried the program would push out veteran teachers, who are disproportionately black.
But school district officials pushed for it aggressively. One version of the contract even included a provision that said a failure to get enough retirees would trigger a re-opening of the contract. The Chicago Teachers Union fought that and, in the end, the program remained without any consequences for it not materializing.