LETTER: Track (i.e. year-round) schools' payroll screwup at central office penalizes teachers... 'I don't do my own payroll'

Did Substance hear about the nice payroll letter that some of us at Track Schools [year-round] received on Friday ? It did not affect everyone, but some of us got letters saying that there was apparently a recent audit, and payroll "found" that some of us track teachers have 60/20 banks in the negative, and according to the letter, it has to be 0 by June 30th.

So they figured out how much we will owe them, and they decided that June 18 will be the start of the payback. That basically gives us two weeks' notice to prepare to have as much as possibly $600 less in our checks — for however long it takes us to pay it back. For me, I owe $2,400 and will have to take a $600 cut in four checks. There are others at my school who owe more, even one teacher that was given the amount of almost $7000. At $600 per check, she will have to do it for about 11 paychecks. Can you imagine?

I can't deny that my bank is in the negative, but neither can I explain why they did that to me and others. After all, I don't do my own payroll. The $2400 they say I owe them is so they can pay me the eight days of June that fall under this fiscal year (June 21 -30), because as of July 1 , it's a new fiscal year and I start back at 0.

I can't say how many people this affects altogether — at my school it was about eight. Payroll enclosed a print-out of our check totals from 2007 to the present to prove to us we owe this money. I checked it against my own pay stubs and it's accurate — but again, why did they ever let our deferred bank go into negative amounts that would not balance out to 0 in the end? It's not that they overpaid us this money — I receive about the same amount of pay every check and would have noticed $2,400 extra. It's more like they didn't take out enough deferred pay to cover the year. And why some of us at the school, but not others? We can't figure it out.

Once again CPS' payroll department makes a mistake and teachers have to pay for it. They gave us an email address to send an "alternate" payment plan, if we had one. There was no getting thru to anyone by phone. It is irresponsible to give people two weeks' notice and expect them to be ready for a $600 cut in their pay — and just in time for summer vacation. NIce!

Please feel free to print any or all of this letter if you like in Substance. Maybe others will see it from other schools so we can see what the scope of the problem is city-wide.

Thank you,

Maria Guerrero Pablo Casals School

CPS email :


June 6, 2010 at 11:40 PM

By: Eric


I'll be checking in with workers in my building tomorrow. Thanks for the heads up. Given the difficulty the Board has in paying its employees accurately, one might think that payroll in CPS is akin to rocket science. It is not. Get the math correct in order to distribute 26 equal payments over the course of the fiscal year is simply not that difficult. Maybe the Board should turn payroll over to high school accounting, business, and math students. They're likely to have greater success in paying teachers accurately.

June 7, 2010 at 3:48 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Payroll mess due to outsourcing

Most of the messes in the CPS systems (payroll is just one of them) are due to the privatization mania that's been forced on CPS (at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars) since 1995 by Mayor Daley and the Board of Education (basically, a bunch of millionaire ideologues of the Ayn Rand "free market" kind who double by doing the mayor's bidding).

Back in 1989, when I was working on the "budget transition team", there was one guy on the team (assigned to us by then Governor Jim Edgar, a Republican "free market" nut case) who was demanding that everything be outsourced — Payroll. HR (then called simply "personnel" and now obscenely called "Human Capital" in a pun that would make Karl Marx happy). Food services. Security. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Once Mayor Daley signed on as a stealth Republican by the early 1990s, the privatization agenda was set (and the debacle made inevitable).

At one point (summer of 1989), I was actually assigned to evaluate payroll, which was then utilizing an internal computer system, maintained by CPS workers who were computer experts in that system. The thought was that it could be outsources (software and hardware) and privatized (somebody from outside doing the work for "less" — which by the way never is).

One example of the reason why off-the-shelf software wasn't going to work came from the payroll director, who had previously been asked to look into it. If you have a business with, say, 100 employees, your payroll is complicated, but not fantastically so. If you have a business with between 45,000 and 50,000 employees, the level of complexity becomes almost incalculable. Every time you think you have stabilized on the number of variables you have to account for, a new one arrives. Therefore, the system has to be maintained by your own employees — and in house. The only thing you can guarantee by outsourcing, no matter how lavish the marketing you're being suckered with, is a mess that grows messier each year — and much more expensive.

The one example I was given said it all: child support deductions. A reasonable system might have a field to cover one child support deduction for employees, etc., etc., etc. In a large system, an off the shelf software package might offer two.

But by the late 1980s, CPS had employees who were faced with three child support deductions — plus some other exotic court-ordered things that had to be handled through payroll.


In 1989, our answer was the outsourcing payroll and privatizing the in-house software to an outside vendor was, basically, impossible. No matter what the claims, the systems were not going to work, and the costs (both in dollars and in the time it would spend to correct the messes, which can be measured in what you have to pay the people who clean up the messes) make it impossible.

Unless, as the members of the Board of Education (and Paul Vallas; Arne Duncan; and now Ron Huberman) knew as an article of faith, not fact, that privatization was always better than hiring and paying well trained and well supervised public employees.

Once the "Atlas Shrugged" fan club (and this includes most of the top dogs today, including all the members of the Chicago Board of Education) took things over, the mess at CPS was as predictable and inevitable as the mess in the Gulf of Mexico was once the federal government allowed the oil oligopolies to regulate themselves, or the world wide financial mess once the feds said it was a great idea that Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase ran the financial system without a series of messy laws to interfere with what they call "financial engineering."

God was right back when Moses had to leave the camp to get one of the earliest sets of regulations, now known as the Ten Commandments. Without regulation, us fragile humans have a tendency to run a little wild, even without a Golden Calf (although you could say the Golden Calves of Wall Street are the idols that caused our current sorrows, from Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns to BP and CPS).

After CTU gets straightened out, it will take a decade to clean house at CPS and restore sanity, by bringing back most of the activities that have to be done to workers who are "accountable" (don't you love the way that word has been polluted by these guys?) to the public because they are public workers — not mercenaries dedicated to some corporate "bottom line."

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 3 =