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Chicago Teachers Union v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

October 4, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge David H. Coar


Plaintiff Chicago Teachers Union (the "Teachers Union") has filed an action against Defendants Board of Education of the City of Chicago (the "Board"), and Mary Richardson Lowery, Norman Bobins, Tariq Butt, Roxanne Ward, Peggy Davis, Alberto Carrero, Jr., and Ron Huberman, in their official capacities, based on the Board's recent economic layoff of tenured teachers. In its five-count complaint, the Teachers Union alleges violations of federal due process (Counts I and II), the Contracts Clause of the United States Constitution (Count III), and state law governing reductions in force, 105 ILCS 5/34-18(31) (Count IV); the Teachers Union also seeks an injunction in aid of arbitration under state law (Count V).

On August 13, 2010, the Teachers Union filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on Counts I and II. In its motion, the Teachers Union seeks an order: (1) directing the Board to rescind the discharges of tenured teachers under the Board's June 15, 2010 resolution; (2) directing the Board to provide a procedure for review and retention of such teachers under Section 504.2 of the Chicago Public Schools Policy Manual, Appendix H of the parties' collective bargaining agreement, or some equivalent procedure consistent with the requirements of Mims v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chi., 523 F.2d 711 (7th Cir. 1975); and (3) preliminarily and permanently enjoining the Board from conducting future layoffs or "honorable discharges" in a similarly unlawful manner.*fn1 On September 15, 2010, the Court held a hearing to simultaneously address the Union's motion for a preliminary injunction and its ultimate pursuit of a permanent injunction. After considering the parties' briefs and in-court arguments, the Court grants the Teachers Union's motion and enters preliminary and permanent injunctions against the Board for the reasons explained below.


The facts in this case are largely undisputed. Facing significant budget deficits on the eve of the 2010-2011 school year, the Board was forced to lay off nearly 1,300 teachers. The Board implemented its layoffs through a series of resolutions issued over the summer. On June 15, 2010, the Board passed a resolution authorizing the "honorable termination" of tenured teachers. (Compl. Ex. F.) The Board passed a second resolution on June 23, 2010, authorizing schools to first lay off teachers who were under remediation and whose last performance ratings were negative. (Compl. Ex. H). Although the Board suggested to the media that the entire layoff involved teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations, in fact, the majority of tenured teachers laid off were rated "excellent," "superior," or "satisfactory." (Compl. ¶¶ 43, 53-54, Ex. J, K; Mot. for Prelim. Inj. Ex. 1- Potter Decl. ¶ 18). On July 20, 2010, the Board announced plans to dismiss 400 teachers in "Track E" schools, the majority of whom were tenured. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-10.) The Board has since informed the Teachers Union of its intentions to terminate upwards of 1,500 more teachers.

Throughout the summer, the Board implemented layoffs of 1,289 teachers in sequential phases that ended by August 31, 2010. (Br. in Opp. to Prelim. Inj. Ex. A- Resnick Aff. ¶ 20). All laid-off teachers received notice of their termination. (Id.; Inj. Hr'g Tr. 36-37, Sept. 15, 2010.) They were not, however, provided with an opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications for retention in some capacity within the school system. (Potter Decl. ¶ 23.) Vacancies arise frequently throughout the Chicago Public Schools system; in a system that employs approximately 40,000 people, natural labor needs compel the Board to hire approximately 2,000 new teachers every year. (Resnick Decl. ¶ 4; Potter Decl. ¶ 21.) While the Board's notice to laid-off teachers directed them to a website listing job vacancies in the Chicago Public Schools system, the Board admits that there are many vacancies that principals never post on this website. (Hr'g Tr. 36-37.) Conceivably, laid-off teachers afforded retention or reassignment rights would have access to those vacancies.

Due to an increase in federal funding in August 2010, the Board was able to restore the positions of approximately 600 recently laid-off teachers before schools opened. (Resnick Aff. ¶¶ 23-24.)


"The standard for a preliminary injunction is essentially the same as for a permanent injunction with the exception that the plaintiff must show a likelihood of success on the merits rather than actual success." Amoco Prod. Co. v. Vill. Of Gambell, AK, 480 U.S. 531, 546 (1987).

To obtain a permanent injunction, the Teachers Union must demonstrate: (1) success on the merits; (2) that remedies available at law are inadequate;*fn2 (3) that the benefits of granting an injunction outweigh any resulting injury to the Board; and (4) that an injunction will not harm the public interest. See Collins v. Hamilton, 349 F.3d 371, 374 (7th Cir. 2003). Since the requirements for a preliminary and permanent injunction are essentially the same, but a permanent injunction carries a higher burden of proof, the Court will conduct the current analysis under the standard for obtaining a permanent injunction. See Chi. Sch. Reform Bd. of Tr. v. Diversified Pharm. Serv., Inc., 40 F.Supp.2d 987, 991 (N.D. Ill. 1999).


I. Success on the Merits

To prevail on a claim for the deprivation of property without due process, a plaintiff must establish that she holds a property interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. See Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 576-77 (1972). Such property interests are not formed by the Constitution; "[r]ather, they are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law- rules or understandings that secure certain benefits and that support claims of entitlement to those benefits." Id. at 577; Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 539 (1985). An individual has a property interest in a benefit if he has more than an "abstract need" for, or "unilateral expectation" of, that benefit. Roth, 408 U.S. at 577. "He must, instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it." Id.; Perry v. Sinderman, 408 U.S. 593, 602 (1972). Once a court determines that an individual holds a property interest protected by the Due Process Clause, the question becomes what process is due. Loudermill, 470 U.S. at 541.

The Teachers Union contends that tenured teachers laid off for economic reasons hold a due process right to some type of retention procedure before they are permanently discharged. In furtherance of this claim, the Union submits that tenured teachers subjected to economic layoffs have a property interest in their continued employment. The initial challenge lies in locating the basis for this property interest. According to the Teachers Union, the Illinois School Code contemplates two ways in which tenured teachers may be terminated. The first way, termination "for cause," requires a plethora of procedures, including notice and a hearing. See 105 ILCS 5/34-85; 105 ILCS 5/24A. As far as the Union is concerned, the second and only other way tenured teachers may be terminated is through layoffs ...

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