The Chicago Public Schools district has put forward a four-year contract proposal seeking to gradually phase out its pension pickup for teachers.
At the same time, the proposal calls for a gradual teacher pay bump over the life of the contract. CPS says the offer would prevent a massive round of teacher layoffs next year, but CTU contends that the district is trying to "force a no-win choice" on teachers.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool spoke to media and principals on a Tuesday conference call about the district's new contract offer.
"On Monday I attended contract negotiations personally to offer teachers a comprehensive four-year [contract] that would guarantee there are no mid-year layoffs. It would also importantly provide an overall raise to the teachers over the life of the contract and make their lives in the classroom easier," Claypool said on the call, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
Among other items, the proposal also looks to scale back standardized testing and paperwork and give educators greater control over grading.
The school district and the Chicago Teachers Union have been at odds over a new contract to replace the one that expired on June 30.
On Monday, 88 percent of all CTU members voted to authorize a strike, if necessary.
CPS, meanwhile, is hoping the Illinois General Assembly will approve $480 million in pension relief for the school district. Some 5,000 teachers could be laid off by February if CPS does not get the financial help it is seeking, the district has warned.
In a statement Tuesday, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey fired back at the school district. He criticized Claypool for discussing the contract offer with media and principals before union members had adequate time to review it.
"We are disappointed that after meeting Mr. Claypool less than an hour after we announced that teachers had voted for strike authorization, that he would mischaracterize in a phone call a new proposal presented to the Union that we have yet to fully vet and discuss with our rank-and-file," Sharkey said. "The mayor's hand-picked board continues to force a no-win choice on educators: Accept deep cuts to our salaries and health benefits now or choose massive layoffs and larger class sizes in the weeks to come.
"However, the board has some choices to make on its own. Either they can work with us to improve the quality conditions in our schools or they can face the second teachers strike in three years. CPS is unwilling to acknowledge the need for long-term progressive revenue solutions," Sharkey added. "Instead of working with us to explore those options, Mr. Claypool would rather inflict more damage upon our classrooms and then turn around and blame us for their draconian actions and bad fiscal decisions."