CHICAGO – There’s no doubt that Chicago Public Schools have serious money problems, and they are not all the fault of district administrators.
Labor costs for union employees have been through the roof for years. And Illinois state law forces the district to directly fund a huge percentage of a pension program for retirees.
Earlier this week the district, which has been operating with an budget deficit of more than $1 billion, had to borrow money to make the latest installment on the pension program, which came to a whopping $634 million, according to NBCChicago.
As a result, the district announced that it will have to make about $200 million in budget cuts in the next fiscal year. That means that approximately 1,400 district jobs will be “impacted” one way or the other, according to the district CEO.
It just so happens that there are 1,599 CPS employees – a bit more than the targeted 1,400 – who could easily be “impacted” by the budget ax without hurting them or impacting student instruction.
Those are the employees – mostly administrators – who made more than $100,000 in straight salary in 2013-14, before their benefits were figured in, according to a salary chart obtained by EAGnews. Eighty-three of those employees made at least $150,000 in straight salary.
The 1,599 employees collectively made a whopping $192 million in 2013-14. That’s almost enough to cover the $200 million in budget cuts the district will be making.
The 83 who made at least $150,000 took home a collective $13.2 million.
Is this a classic case of “too many chiefs?”
Now-former Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett made $250,000. Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Cawley made $215,000. Chief Financial Officer Ginger Ostro made $180,000. Chief Accountability Officer John Barker made $175,000. Chief of College and Career Success Aarti Dhupelia made $175,000. Chief Teaching and Learning Officer Annette Gawley made $175,000. Chief Officer of Networks Denise Little made $175,000. Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer Sherry Ulery made $175,000.
Let’s not forget the chief lawyer – General Counsel James Bebley – who made $175,000. Just those nine salaries alone came to nearly $1.7 million.
There were 13 employees with the title “Chief of Schools” who each made $151,131.
One might argue that all that money went to important employees who do important work. But is that really the case, or do they pass on the work to a slightly lesser-paid network of under-chiefs?
For instance, the district has a Chief of Staff ($165,000 per year) to go along with the Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer. It has a Chief of Education Effectiveness ($165,000 per year) to go along with the Chief Teaching and Learning Officer. It has a Treasurer ($167,0000 per year) and Budget Manager ($107,000 per year) to go along with the Chief Financial Officer.
And remember, the district has both a Chief Executive Officer and a Chief Administrative Officer, who combined to make $465,000 in straight salary in 2013-14.
There was a bit of panic this week, when CPS announced that 1,400 school jobs would be “impacted.” Some, including union officials, assumed that the majority of the affected employees would be teachers.
“We are blindsided by reports that the district intends to lay off 1,400 public school educators, given that we just met with them yesterday and there was no mention of this action,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said in a press statement.
District officials quickly responded that teachers would not be primary targets, according to the news report.
“The 1,400 affected positions include employees in the central office, operations and other programs,” said CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner, who works for Chief Communications Officer Ronald Iori, who made $165,000 in 2013-14 while supervising a Chief of Media Relations ($150,000 per year), a Director of Media Affairs ($100,000 per year), and a Chief Speechwriter ($100,000 per year).