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Layoffs in Chicago District Amid an Uncertain Future

With a difficult financial road ahead, Chicago' school district sent layoff notices to 227 employees late last week and announced that it was also closing 180 vacant positions.

Fifty-seven of the employees who received the layoff notices will be able to reapply for 35 positions, the district said. The district also said that it had taken other measures that have cut compensation by $14.5 million. 

News of the layoffs followed some tough talk from Republican legislators in the state capital of Springfield, who, publicly, are showing no willingness to bail out the financially strapped school district, which is the third largest in the country.

Two Republican legislators and GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner put forward a proposal last week that would allow the state of Illinois to take over the district. The proposal would also allow the district to declare bankruptcy.

Both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appoints the members of the school board, and Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers' Union, who are normally at odds, have pushed back against the takeover idea.

The district's financial future is murky. Chicago schools' current year budget has a $480 million shortfall, and the district had been counting on the state to help plug the gap. The district also has a $1 billion structural deficit and has suffered a series of credit-ratings downgrades over the last year. And with the teachers' union contract still unsettled, there is fear of a looming strike. Eighty-eight percent of eligible union members voted in December in favor of a strike if no contract agreement is reached.

No teacher layoffs were announced in last week's round of dismissals, but last year, Chicago schools' CEO Forrest Claypool said that without state assistance teacher layoffs were possible.

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