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Vote by Chicago teachers union could end strike

September 16, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • Residents of a westside Chicago neighborhood cheer public school teachers as they march after a rally Saturday.
Residents of a westside Chicago neighborhood cheer public school teachers… (Sitthixay Ditthavong/Associated…)

Striking Chicago teachers could be headed back to class on Monday if union leadership approves a proposed contract Sunday afternoon.

The weeklong teachers’ strike in Chicago has crippled the nation’s third-largest public school system as union leaders fought against budget cuts and a reform agenda laid out by the city’s Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

On Saturday, union and district negotiators worked out contract language for a tentative deal that now must be approved by the Chicago Teachers Union’s ruling body. Union and school officials on Friday announced that the outlines of an agreement had been reached.

The details of the proposed three-year contract, released by the teachers’ union on Saturday, shows that union negotiators won a number of key concessions from the district but failed to secure the significant pay increases they had sought.

“We believe this is a good contract,” union president Karen Lewis said in a statement. “However, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our district.”

A few key contract details released by the union:

--Negotiators agreed on a three-year contract with an option for the union and the district to extend the contract for another year. Teachers would see pay raises of 3%, 2%, 2% and 3% for each year, respectively. The union had initially hoped to win back the 4% raise the district revoked from teachers last year after budget problems.

--In one of the central disagreements of Emanuel’s proposed reforms, the union says it preserved so-called “step and lane” pay increases for teachers, in which teachers receive raises for each year of service. The district had hoped to tie teacher compensation to student scores on standardized tests; the union says only 30% of teachers’ evaluations will come from student test scores, the minimum under Illinois state law.

--The district will hire 600 more teachers for art, music, physical education, world languages and other "special" classes, and another contract provision stipulates that half of all new district hires must consist of laid-off members.

--The new contract also includes promises from the district to provide all students and teachers with textbooks on the first day of school and reimbursements for school supplies up to $250. School officials also agreed to hire more nurses, social workers and school counselors if the district gets more revenue.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel won a concession lengthening the school day by 90 minutes; union negotiators offset that increase by securing six half-days for teachers. Principals will also retain significant authority in hiring teachers of their choosing.

Union leaders cautioned that members could vote to delay a decision for a day while they evaluate the proposed contract.

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