EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOV) – East St. Louis is laying off 287 teachers on top of plans to close and consolidate three elementary schools.
The East St. Louis School District has lost almost 1,000 students over the past three years, and the state also owes it about $5 million. Stimulus funds granted last year have already dried up.
This combination starts to explain the massive teacher layoffs, and educators say it will affect students’ learning.
“I expected some cuts, but at this level, it is extreme,” says Bob Bomkamp, laid-off teacher.
Bomkamp has taught and coached middle school students for eight years, but he won’t be back in the classroom this fall.
His absence along with that of 286 other teachers will lead to increased class sizes.
“Adding more students obviously brings on more discipline problems, less space, less one-on-one time with each student,” he says.
The union says it’s bad news for teachers, and even worse for the 7,500 students in the district.
“If we're overcrowded, we can't accomplish our goals for the kids, and our main goal is the kids,” says Sharon Crockett of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Board member Carl Officer took his own daughter out of East St. Louis schools because he said the board only learned of the layoff proposal Monday night, and was asked to vote on it on Tuesday.
“We didn't even discuss the non-certified personnel, sweetheart contracts and other cost-saving measures,” says Officer. “To go after teachers this hard, heavy, deep might be necessary, but nobody's proven it to me yet.”
The district will shutter three elementary schools: Edgemont McHenry and Jackson.
“The ultimate fear is that we'll lose more students, which will result in less funding for the district,” says Officer.