The cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools system spends tens of millions of dollars annually on a perk that few other employers offer: cash to departing employees for unused time off.
Since 2006, the district paid a total $265 million to employees for unused sick and vacation days, according to an analysis of payroll and benefit data obtained by the Better Government Association under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
By far the largest share — $227 million — went to longtime employees for sick days accumulated over two or three decades.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently ordered a halt on paying unused sick time to non-union employees at City Colleges of Chicago after the BGA found at least $3 million in such payouts to former employees over the last decade. Among the biggest beneficiaries was former Chancellor Wayne Watson, who has received $300,000 of a promised $500,000 payout for 500 unused sick days.
“This policy is unacceptable to the mayor and not consistent with the city’s sick day policies for its own employees,” said Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Emanuel. The mayor also directed other city agencies, including CPS, to halt such payments, review their policies and devise plans to end the practice permanently.
At CPS, the top payouts went to top brass, including more than 300 longtime principals and administrators, who received more than $100,000 during the six-year period from 2006 to 2011, the BGA found. The highest payment topped $250,000.