Chicago Tribune, Saturday, January 23, 1999, p. 7 (Section 1)
138 teachers laid off after limbo period
By Michael Martinez and Bechetta Jackson, Staff Writers
The Chicago school board has executed its largest layoff in recent history: 138 tenured instructors, including 35 high school teachers kicked out of their jobs almost two years ago during a contoversial school restaffing process, union and board officials said Friday.
The layoffs marked the first mass discharge since the board agreed in 1997 to get rid of unwanted teachers in a speedier fashion, reducing the grace period to find another job to 10 months from 20.
The laid-off teachers, who had received extensions of the 10-month grace period, had been in an end-of-the-line assignment as members of a reserve pool.
Although some interviewed Friday said they felt they had been fired, they can regain their salaries and benefits as regular teachers if they find employment within the system in the next two years, under terms of the schools' contract with the 27,000 member Chicago Teachers Union.
Most of the teachers who were laid off Friday had lost their permanent assignments because of enrollment declines or curriculum changes, but 35 were ousted18 months ago during the extreme reform measure of reconstitution of their schools.
Union spokeswoman Jackie Gallagher criticized the school system's latest action against the teachers as a "groundbreaking precedent" and the largest layoff in recent memory.
The federal judge hearing a lawsuit filed by the 138 teachers declined to issue a temporary restraining order pending a further hearing Feb. 17. The teachers say they were denied due process.
Meanwhile, Mayor Richard Daley defended the ban on social promotions, praised by President Clinton this week in the State of the Union address, as it was announced that some students who had failed had met test standards and will be promoted mid-year.
Daley scoffed at education experts who contended this week that flunking students does more harm than good.
"When you socially promote children, you give them phony diplomas," Daley said.
Results from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, released Friday, mean that 9.5 percent of 37,421 3rd graders still will be retained, schools chief Paul Vallas said. Figures show that 5.8 percent of all 30,907 6th graders and 7.2 percent of all 31,199 8th graders also failed, he said.
At transiton schools for failing 8th graders age 15 or older, only 42 of the 1,549 students were still failing at mid-year. Vallas said he is working on placing the 42 in a special vocational education program if they are not able to make the grade by June.
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