An independent fact finder may have delivered a major victory for the Chicago Teachers Union: a recommendation that teachers get an almost 15 percent raise for the upcoming school year as compensation for a longer school day.
“We do agree with his initial recommendations that our members deserve significant pay raises,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said at a press conference this afternoon.
Lewis said that the union’s house of delegates would meet at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon to decide whether to accept or reject the fact finder’s report. The union president said the fact finder, Glencoe-based arbitrator Edwin Benn, issued his report today.
The findings are not available to the public while both sides review the proposal.
Messages left this afternoon with CPS were responded to with a written statement from spokeswoman Becky Carroll.
"We are operating under the most dire fiscal situation CPS has ever faced," Carroll wrote, adding that the fact finder's proposals "must be grounded in the fiscal reality CPS faces today." CPS recently released a controversial budget proposal for next year that drains the system's reserve fund.
Carroll also reiterated the district's call for a longer school day, even as that policy apparently spurred the fact finder's recommendation for a 14.8 percent teacher raise.
The fact finder is a central part of SB7, the landmark Illinois education law that passed last year. Under the bill, a fact finder approved by both parties must put forth recommendations in the case of a negotiation impasse.
Both sides have 15 days to accept or reject the findings. In the case of a rejection, talks resume, but the union may strike after a 30-day cooling period. Ninety percent of CTU members voted in June to authorize a strike if talks broke down, clearing the 75 percent strike authorization threshold set by SB7.
Both CPS and CTU, after initial opposition, supported SB7. However, Lewis said at the press conference today what she has said before: The bill “was championed by this current CPS administration, the mayor, and their out of town billionaires.”
As such, Lewis took delight in a raise recommendation that aligns much closer with the union’s original demand of a 29 percent pay hike over two years compared to the initial CPS offer of a two percent annual raise. “Thank you SB7,” Lewis said.
She also referred to a letter CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard sent to parents on June 5, which partly discussed teacher raises. “How much that raise should be is in the hands of an independent fact finder,” Brizard wrote at the time.
The 14.8 percent raise was apparently calculated by considering a 2.25 percent annual cost-of-living adjustment increase and a 12.6 percent increase that reflects the extra time teachers must spend in the classroom via the longer school day. According to Lewis, the arbitrator calculated that CTU members would work about 19 percent more next year thanks to a school day that expands to seven hours.
This morning’s Chicago Tribune first reported the fact finder’s recommendation of a major raise. However, the Tribune reported that both CPS and CTU were against the recommendations. This afternoon, Lewis spoke positively of the fact finder's report.