In Sunday remarks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel again defended the just-announced laying off of more than 2,100 Chicago Public Schools employees, almost 1,000 of them teachers, as unavoidable thanks to both the state of Illinois’ pension funding crisis and the city’s lowered bond rating.
The layoffs, the mayor said, were “avoidable in a sense” had the Illinois state legislature taken action on pension reform legislation, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The city’s credit rating being downgraded by Moody’s Investor Services, a move Moody’s said it made due to the state and city’s unfunded pension liabilities, was also to blame for the layoffs, the mayor added.
“If we think the pension is not a threat, Moody’s is a wake up call,” the mayor said Sunday at an unrelated event, according to DNAinfo Chicago.
Previously, when the layoffs were first announced last Friday, both Emanuel and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett also said the Illinois General Assembly’s inaction on pensions was to blame. Emanuel said, according to the AP, the cuts are “yet another painful reminder to Springfield that we need immediate pension relief.”
The total number of laid-off teachers accounts for roughly 4 percent of the district’s entire teaching staff.
The Chicago Teachers Union has described the cuts as a “bloodbath.” For its part, the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, which manages CPS teachers’ pensions, called the mayor’s claims “misleading” in a statement.
In other CPS news, the City Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus on Monday announced they will submit an ordinance to the City Council calling on the mayor to declare a surplus in the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) development funds and pass that money along to the cash-strapped school district.
“It’s time to put that money back into the classrooms,” Ald. John Arena (45th) said Monday, according to DNAinfo. “The money’s there. This is rational and a reasonable request for the administration.”
According to the Cook County Clerk David Orr, the city’s TIF districts generated $457 million in funding last year alone, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The district previously handed out pick slips to another 850 employees in June, not long after its board of education voted to shutter 50 schools.