Following the announcement (pdf) that Chicago Public Schools is laying off nearly 1,200 teachers and key staff members, public school advocates on Friday slammed the cuts as further proof of the city government's support of the corporate charter school system which they say is "siphoning students out of public schools and contributing to a system of dysfunction and instability."
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Board continue their war on our educators by doing nothing to salvage school budgets other than forcing principals to terminate valued teachers and staff," said Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis in a statement.
Of the 1,150 individuals whose jobs were cut on Thursday, 550 are teachers and 600 are Educational Support Personnel (ESP). This latest round of layoffs is the fourth in the last five years where over 1,000 educators were let go.
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Defending the cuts, public schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett cited "declining student enrollment" as the reason behind the layoffs. However, critics said this was "yet another brutal attack on public education in Chicago" and pointed to the "ever-increasing number of charter schools" opening in the city.
“This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his handpicked Board," Lewis said. According to reports, the union president is now "seriously considering" to challenge Emanuel in the upcoming mayoral election.
"Do we want 'Star Wars' museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?” Lewis continued.