In what many on the Left are describing as an epic act of betrayal, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this week that he is going to layoff 1,400 Chicago public school teachers and staff to help finance a public employee pension debt of $634 million.
The layoffs will free up $200 million to pay the city’s upcoming pension payment must be made by Chicago Public Schools by Illinois law. The rest of the pension payment will come from more borrowing by a school district already drowning in $1.1 billion of debt.
As expected, Mayor Emanuel is blaming the situation on the rest of Illinois for not paying more of the cost of keeping Chicago’s promises to the city’s powerful teacher unions.
“You negotiate with your teachers in Aurora… Then we get to pay for it,” Emanuel said at a press conference. He said the state should change its funding formula so “You… come to the table and start paying your share for what you negotiated.”
Chicago’s public schools have been the object of repeated mass layoffs in the past thanks, in part, to overstaffing and the city’s budget situation which remains in a constant state of crisis. Previously, about 1,100 employees were laid off in 2014 and over 3,000 lost their jobs in 2013.
Still, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) said in a statement that they were totally “blindsided” by the mass firing. According to Karen Lewis, president of the CTU:
“We are blindsided by reports that the district intends to lay off 1,400 public school educators, given that we just met with them yesterday and there was no mention of this action. These layoffs prove that the Board never intended to make the pension payment in good faith and that they are using this to justify more attacks on our classrooms”
“Putting 1,400 people out of work is no way to balance a budget and resource our schools”… “These cuts are a result of a history of poor fiscal management by the Board of Education. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked board has led this district over a financial cliff.
“We are outraged at this deceptive action that only furthers the distrust teachers, parents and students have with the Board…” “This is retaliatory and unnecessary because (the mayor) refuses to seek revenue options (more taxes) to stabilize CPS.”
Many are asking angry educators to look at the pension benefits and healthcare costs of retired teachers. Thousands of retired Illinois teachers receive six-figure pensions and the average retiree receives more in pension payments than they paid into the pension program.
Most teachers retire at age 59 or younger and, on average, receive lifetime pension benefits in excess of $2 million – not including a fixed annual 3 percent cost of living adjustment.
Chicago teachers defend their high pensions by pointing out that they are ineligible for Social Security (forgetting to say that they paid no payroll taxes into the Social Security trust fund).
In 2013, Illinois lawmakers passed a pension reform bill that tried to scale back benefits to contain costs, but CTU and other labor groups sued. The CTU may have painted itself into a box when, in May, a state judge ruled that, by law, Illinois could not cut payments to the pension fund.
Many argue that this is a perfect example of big government liberals and greedy union bosses making promises to past employees the future employees can’t keep – a situation that leaves students in understaffed, overcrowded and failing schools holding the bag.