MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Today the Chicago Public School District began contacting more than 2,000 teachers and other employees to let them know they no longer have jobs. It's the second round of massive layoffs this year in Chicago. The teacher's union there calls it a bloodbath. Here's NPR's Cheryl Corley.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: This layoff announcement is just the latest in a year of upheaval for the Chicago public schools. There's been a school strike, budget cuts and two months ago, Chicago announced it would close the largest number of public schools at one time ever in U.S. history - 49 elementary schools and one high school program. That meant 850 workers, more than half of them teachers, would lose their jobs. Now, today, more pink slips.
RUTH OXBERGER: I believe that every child should have the privilege to have the highest level of education.
CORLEY: Ruth Oxberger had learned just two hours earlier that she would be among the 1,000 or so teachers and the 1,000 more clerks, cafeteria workers, security guards and other school staffers losing their jobs. Chicago school officials say the district faces a historic $1 billion deficit, based in part on a huge $400 million hike in annual teacher pension payments. Jesse Sharkey, the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, says the school district shouldn't point its finger at the union.
JESSE SHARKEY: Really blaming retired teachers who make an average of $40,000 a year for their retirement, who get no Social Security, who never missed a payment, while the city itself didn't put any money into the fund for ten years, who have had a massive pension holiday for three years, we think that's hypocrisy.
CORLEY: Sharkey says the CTU has offered different ideas to raise money for pensions, as well as for Chicago schools. But, he says, the district ignores those union suggestions. Chicago school officials refused to speak with NPR today but in a statement say the district has taken steps in an effort to address the school's fiscal crisis, including this year cutting an extra $52 million from the central office. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.