Chicago teachers union rejects 'serious offer' from district

AP News
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Posted: Feb 01, 2016 7:52 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Teachers Union announced Monday it has rejected a four-year contract proposal, saying the offer does not address school conditions, a lack of services for some students or the fiscal crisis the nation's third-largest district faces.

The union's 40-member "Big Bargaining Team" voted against sending the proposal, which the union's leadership last week called a "serious offer," to the larger House of Delegates. That group would have decided whether the entire union membership could vote it up or down.

"We are not convinced that they will make good on their promises set forth in this proposal that are very vague and unclear," said Dr. Monique Redeaux-Smith, a bargaining team member.

The district is operating with a $500 million deficit, and the state Legislature hasn't approved a $480 million subsidy Chicago Public Schools had included in its budget proposal.

According to the union, the district's offer would have required teachers to contribute more toward pension costs and health care coverage.

Union president Karen Lewis said teachers have already given more than $2 billion back to the district over the last five years, including a raise that was rescinded in 2011 and layoffs, including those resulting from school closures.

"The real problem is the lack of trust in CPS," Lewis said, contending district officials have lacked the will to join with parents, students and community members to identify new revenue sources to stabilize district finances.

Schools CEO Forest Claypool said in a statement that the contract proposal provided pay raises, guaranteed job security and met the union's key demands, including restrictions on charter school expansion, raises for seniority in addition to cost-of-living increases and more classroom autonomy for teachers.

"While we are disappointed by today's result, CPS remains committed to reaching an agreement with our partners at the CTU that is in the best interest of our students, parents, teachers and city," Claypool said.

Negotiations have been ongoing for more than a year, and members of the union have already authorized a strike if necessary. During the last round of contract negotiations, teachers walked out for seven days in September 2012.

Talks picked up after Republicans proposed legislation earlier this year allowing for a state takeover of Chicago schools. The legislators also want to give the district the opportunity to claim bankruptcy. The school district, the union and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel oppose those plans.