CHICAGO - The Chicago Teachers' Union warned that the possibility of 5,000 teacher layoffs would create "chaos" and could drive a teachers' strike against Chicago Public Schools.

"Virtually every student will experience chaos as every school in the city will need to be reprogrammed in the middle of the school year," union vice president Jesse Sharkey warned at a news conference Sept. 21.

"If CPS goes through with these cuts, we should expect the CTU to do everything in our power to fight for our schools and fight for the people to work in them," he added. "We will react to that in the strongest way we can."

The comments came in response to remarks a few days earlier by the district's new chief executive officer, Forrest Claypool, who warned that 5,000 layoffs could occur by Thanksgiving if the state doesn't come through with $480 million in pension help.

The district's fiscal 2016 budget relies on that level of support. No headway has been made in a state budget impasse and so it's unclear whether the district will get the aid it needs. The union has repeatedly called on CPS, the city, and state to come up with more revenue and promoted ideas like a financial transaction tax.

"We can't wait forever for Springfield. We're hopeful, but the truth is that if Springfield doesn't act, then we have to act," Claypool said during a news program hosted by WLS-890 AM.

Change is also afoot with the district's leadership, expected as Claypool, who left the Chicago Transit Authority to take the schools' position, shapes his team.

Tim Cawley has resigned as chief administrative officer and Claypool has brought in his top fiscal chief while at the CTA. Ronald DeNard will serve as senior financial officer. It's unclear how his hiring impacts the existing financial team led by Ginger Ostro. The district did not return calls to comment.

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