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20,000 teachers to be laid off in state, group says
By Neil Holdway | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/27/2010 12:26 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - A coalition of Illinois education groups says more than 20,000 teachers could be laid off from state schools in the next school year.

The coalition is surveying 944 school districts and other educational institutions in the state and said this week it has heard from three-quarters of them so far on the layoffs they're planning.

Already 17,228 layoffs have been reported.

"We expect job cuts could top 20,000 when all the final data is in," said Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, one of the six groups in the coalition.

School districts must tell employees by April 15 whether their jobs will be cut next year. The coalition broke down the planned layoffs into three categories:

•9,764 were certified staff members - basically, teachers.

•1,597 were certified retirees not being replaced.

•5,867 were noncertified staff members.

"This data only reflects expected job losses," Clark said in a news release. "The situation is far worse when we factor in elimination and reduction of hundreds of programs in sports and music and school activities that are so beneficial to students."

The coalition is using the data to urge an increase in the state income tax.

"State government leaders have a choice: Either pass new revenue or face a 17 percent cut in state funding for K-12 schools next year," said Ken Swanson, president of the Illinois Education Association, another one of the groups in the coalition.

Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed budget would cut elementary and high school funding by 17 percent without an income tax hike. He advocates an increase in the state income tax rate by 1 percentage point in part to prevent that.

His opponent in the November election for the governor's seat, state Sen. Bill Brady, criticized Quinn at an Illinois Education Association banquet March 20 for threatening the education cuts, saying Quinn's proposed budget "attacks the classroom."

Illinois, faced with a $13 billion deficit, is failing to deliver aid to government agencies across the state, including schools. Last week, state comptroller spokesman Alan Henry said it was behind $782 million in payments to K-12 school districts.

Suburban school districts are laying off teachers as a result. Elgin Area School District U-46 announced March 15 that nearly 1,100 employees, including more than 700 teachers, would be laid off. It cut nearly 350 positions in 2009.

On Monday, Indian Prairie Unit District 204, based in Naperville, said it will lay off 145 teachers, nearly 7 percent of its teaching staff. Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 is looking at cutting about 300 teachers.

Smaller school districts are piling on with their own layoff notices.

The layoffs, like in better years past, could be canceled if schools get additional money. But cuts in state funding have greatly increased the number of layoff notices and decrease the likelihood of callbacks.

The coalition's figures include 3,800 jobs cut in the Chicago Public Schools system.

Also in the coalition are the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Principals Association and the Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report