The Chicago Teachers Union is turning up the heat on city and school leaders trying to resolve a $215 million budget deficit.
The union protested at City Hall on Friday, the first of four furlough days that started this year to save the school district $35 million. All of the furlough days were scheduled for days when students are not in school.
Union members said the furloughs amount to a 2 percent pay cut.
Teachers said had they not been furloughed they would have been in school to finish up report cards and planning for the next semester.
“I should be in my classroom today planning, grading and working with my colleagues to prepare the weeks ahead, but instead I am here,” teacher Roxanna Gonzalez told the crowd of about 200 at City Hall.
Much of the rally focused on what might come next. CPS is scheduled to hold hearings Feb. 13 to come up with a plan for an amended budget. The new budget is needed after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed $215 million to pay for CPS pensions. It is the second consecutive year the district is looking at mid-year budget cuts.
One idea floated to balance the budget is to shorten the school year. School staff said they are also worried the district could cut clerks.
Recently, the district told teachers they need to do their own payroll, which used to be done by clerks.
“Chicago Public School clerks are the first line of defense when they walk in the building,” Foreman High School Clerk Sabrina Woods said at the rally. “These are the persons who our children come to after having a hard night at home, when they are sick, when they are in trouble and when they need someone to call home.
Earlier this week, union delegates from each school approved a resolution that called for the immediate resignation of CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. The resolution takes Claypool to task for a series of budget cuts they say “sabotage and dismantle” CPS.
Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @sskedreporter or @wbezeducation