Chicago’s Principals Ready to Quit School

This post was written by Marilyn Rhames. It originally appeared at It is reprinted here with permission.

If a study showed that 40% of the leading doctors in Chicago planned to quit their jobs within the next three years and that another 20% of hospital nurses may soon be out of a job due to budget cuts, there would be an outcry of public fear and anxiety across sectors.

[Related: The Clock is Ticking For Teachers in Chicago Public Schools]

Would health insurance rates skyrocket? Would the disabled, the elderly, and those just born get the tender, specialized care they need? What about emergency room services–would the already overburdened system collapse under the lack of qualified staff?

Whether or not one is physically well, the local healthcare system plays a vital role in all of our lives. There’s comfort in knowing that ample doctors and nurses would be available at a moment’s notice should an accident or sudden illness come upon you or a loved one.

I wish this were true for K-12 public education.

The Chicago Public Education Fund surveyed hundreds of public school principals last summer, and an astounding 40% said they plan to walk away from their jobs by 2018. Though this fact has been reported by several news outlets, no one seems to be panicking in the streets.

Neither does there seem to be extreme public outrage that Chicago Public Schools is threatening to lay off 5,000 teachers–about 20% of its teaching force–to mitigate the $480 million gap that it knew it needed to close long before school started.

The Chicago Teachers Union is poised to strike to protest such devastating and disruptive job losses, and understandably so. But it’s also hard to imagine how forcing a shutdown of the schools in the middle of the school year will help city lawmakers find the half billion dollars the district immediately needs. Even a major tax increase would take several months, if not longer, to collect.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, is refusing to bail out CPS unless the city agrees to fight to weaken the teachers union’s collective bargaining power. And though the state Democrats hold a supermajority, they don’t have the political will to pass a veto-proof bill to write the district a nine-figure check.

The politics alone may be one reason so many principals want to quit.

How does one effectively run a school in CPS when the funding source is so unstable and unpredictable? When the programs that school leaders have worked so hard to establish and that students have come to know and love suddenly get eliminated because of budget cuts?

What about when principals contact the central office to get answers to pressing issues, and no one returns their multiple calls because most of the employees have been laid off?

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