CHICAGO Jan 13 Chicago's cash-strapped public
school system ordered its teachers and administrators on Friday
to take four unpaid days off to offset state funding withheld by
Illinois' Republican governor.
The nation's third-largest school system had been counting
on a $215 million infusion of state funds to stabilize its
pensions and had included that amount in its $5.46 billion
fiscal 2017 operating budget.
The junk-rated system faces an escalating pension tab that
will jump to about $720 million this fiscal year from $676
million in fiscal 2016. The school district, controlled by
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, also is struggling with drained
reserves and debt dependency.
In December, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed
legislation containing the one-time $215 million payment that
had been conditional on passage of statewide comprehensive
pension reform. An overarching, statewide pension fix gained no
traction in the Democratic-led state legislature.
"With a hole of this size in our budget, we have no choice
but to begin to take immediate action to preserve CPS'
solvency," schools CEO Forrest Claypool wrote in a letter
released on Friday announcing the furloughs.
Unpaid days off set for Feb. 3, April 7, June 21 and June 22
for Chicago Public Schools' nearly 40,000 teachers, principals
and administrators will save approximately $35 million, the
Claypool raised the prospect of additional cuts, which he
said would "fall squarely at the governor's feet."
But Rauner's administration fired back at Claypool.
"Continuing to blame the governor, who has been in office
two years, for decades of fiscal mismanagement and bad
decision-making is getting old," Rauner spokeswoman Catherine
Kelly said. "CPS willingly chose to budget for money they had
not received and knew was contingent upon real pension reform."
Kelly said the governor remains "open" to considering the
$215 million allotment to CPS if state lawmakers move on a
workable plan to reduce unfunded state pension liabilities of
The union representing nearly 25,000 teachers blasted the
furlough announcement and blamed Emanuel and Claypool for
failing to wrest more dollars from the state.
"Our students lose days of learning because the mayor and
his CEO, while attempting to place the blame solely on
Springfield, have been stubborn and ineffective in pushing for
the resources to properly fund our schools," the union said in a
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)