The clock is ticking on a new contract agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools after both the CTU House of Delegates and Board of Education swiftly and unanimously rejected a third party fact finder's report this afternoon.
The report recommended an 18 percent salary increase next year for teachers largely due to implementation of a seven-hour school day. The union agreed with the raise proposal from arbitrator Edwin Benn, but rejected other parts of the report including Benn not prescribing a recall procedure for laid off teachers. In addition to the well-documented salary dispute, these reasons for rejecting the report will shape ensuing contract negotiations.
“If [compensation] were the sum total of the issues on the table the Union could accept the report,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.
The union rejected Benn’s recommendations on contract duration, health insurance, and sick leave. For example, the union wants to continue being compensated for unused sick days, an idea Benn advised against.
The union also castigates the fact finder for ignoring several issues important to their members such as clear teacher evaluation guidelines and day-to-day concerns, like air conditioning in classrooms. CTU President Karen Lewis also called for the need to negotiate with CPS on class size and a “better school day” with a curriculum that includes arts and music.
Another union concern was that the wage increase would boomerang with CPS ordering massive layoffs to balance their budget, according to CTU spokesman Michael Harrington.
The Board of Education’s rejection was a foregone conclusion: CPS has time and again claimed fiscal hardship, making the 18 percent raise a non-starter.
CPS initially offered teachers a two percent raise despite the longer school day, and proposed a budget for the next school year that drain’s the district's reserve fund. Moody’s Investor Services downgraded the district’s bond rating after the budget proposal.
“The board does not have the resources to accept the fact finder’s recommendation,” school board president David Vitale said after the Board of Education vote.
CPS and CTU officials were first provided copies of Benn’s report Monday, and the report was formally released to both sides today.
The union met at 4:30 p.m. and declared less than an hour later that their 675-member House of Delegates scotched the report. The school board met at 4 p.m. today and announced just over an hour later that they voted 6-0 against the findings.
CPS and CTU will now return to the bargaining table with two deadlines in mind. One is August 13, when more than 30 percent of the district’s 405,000 students are scheduled back in school. The other is August 15, the first day CTU is legally allowed to strike.
A state education law passed last year mandates a 30-day waiting period between CTU rejecting the fact finder’s proposal and walking out. Union members authorized a strike in June.