So much for keeping cuts away from the classrooms

Less than a month ago, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, David Vitale, said that officials taking steps to close a giant budget deficit would “minimize the effect in the classroom.”

This was after the board said it was closing some 50 public schools that were underutilized, the largest mass closing of public schools in American history, which is now being contested by parents in court. (Ironically, three schools opened as part of a “shakeup” by Arne Duncan, the former chief of Chicago schools and the current U.S. education secretary, are among those being shuttered.)

But that was before the latest news: Now the school system is laying off more than 2,100 staff, including more than 1,000 teachers. That includes teacher assistants, food-service workers, support staff and others. And this is on top of the June layoffs of some 850 employees deemed expendable because of the school closings.

While the number of school buildings is going down, the number of students in the system isn’t, or at least by much, meaning that with teacher layoffs, class sizes in many places are going to go up. In May, WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago Magazine reported that more than 1,560 homerooms in Chicago public elementary schools had more students than they were supposed to, with some classes having up to 45 students.

So much for minimization.

Here’s part of a statement from Raise Your Hand, a grassroots coalition of parents and concerned citizens who advocate for public education:

The Raise Your Hand Coalition is disgusted to learn that Chicago Public schools has laid off another 2000 teachers and staff, bringing the total number of layoffs for the year to 3500. This news lies in stark contrast to the ongoing CPS rhetoric to minimize any impact of budget cuts on the classroom. Now CPS is claiming that there will be “winners and losers.” Even if a few schools have been spared from these widespread and severe cuts, we believe that there are only losers in this scenario.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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