Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed February 17, 2012




Chicago Teachers Union v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 2012 IL 112566


Rule 20 Certified Question from 7th Circuit Court of Appeals


      JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Theis dissented, with opinion, joined by Chief Justice Kilbride.

      In the summer of 2010, the Board of Education of the City of Chicago was faced with significant budget deficits. The Board laid off 1,289 teachers in several phases during the summer. To the extent that vacancies were available within the system, laid-off teachers were not given preference for other teaching jobs, nor were all available vacancies posted on the website which the Board maintained.

      In August of 2010, there was an increase in federal funding. Approximately 715 tenured teachers were recalled. However, many of the available positions were filled with new hires, rather than laid-off tenured teachers. There was no official recall policy.

      The Chicago Teachers Union, Local No. 1, American Federation of Teachers filed suit in federal court, claiming a denial of due process. After several subsequent phases of litigation at the federal level, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concluded that the Supreme Court of Illinois should be given an opportunity to interpret Illinois law. A question was certified from the federal court asking what the School Code provides as to whether these Chicago tenured teachers have a right to be rehired after an economic layoff and whether they have a right to certain procedures during the rehiring process.

      In this decision, the supreme court answered these questions. Public schools in the City of Chicago are treated differently under the statutes of Illinois. Pursuant to the provisions of the School Code, in all the other public school districts in Illinois except Chicago, laid-off tenured teachers (with satisfactory or better evaluations) have a right of recall and, subject to their certification and seniority, have a right to be rehired into new vacancies in their districts for a period of one or two years, depending on the size of the layoff.

      In 1995, the School Code provisions governing Chicago were amended to remove limitations on the power to lay off tenured teachers. Layoff and recall procedures were removed from the statute, and any substantive rights to be rehired after an economic layoff were eliminated.

      Although the current statute speaks of layoff and rehire procedures that could be adopted, the Chicago Board of Education did not do so. Thus, the statutes at issue do not give Chicago teachers the substantive rights argued for by the union. The School Code does not provide that, after an economic layoff in Chicago, only the most qualified or most experienced tenured teachers will be recalled. It does not give tenured teachers a right to recall procedures. After an economic layoff, tenured teachers have neither a substantive right to be rehired nor a right to certain procedures during the rehiring process.

      The supreme court declined to read into the School Code’s language something which the legislature did not put there.