At a time when Chicago’s public schools are headed modestly in the right direction, the last thing our city needed was another teachers’ strike.
It was with relief, then, that we greeted the news Tuesday that a tentative new teachers’ contract has been agreed to and a strike is much less likely. The details of the deal will be picked apart and bemoaned, if only because nobody ever gets all they want. But at a time when ACT scores and elementary math and reading proficiency are on the rise, throwing the public schools up for grabs with a strike would have been such an injustice to some 300,000 school children.
Credit goes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Teachers’ Union President Karen Lewis, who five years ago just yelled at each other. This time around, they developed a working relationship. Credit goes to Schools CEO Forrest Claypool. And credit, perhaps most of all, goes to the teachers. They apparently got the message that their fellow Chicagoans have paid a huge price in the last year, primarily in the form a higher property taxes, to resolve our city and school system’s financial crisis — and it sure would be nice if the teachers tempered their demands.
That said, the deal still must be approved by the CTU’s House of Delegates and full membership. A less generous deal Lewis signaled support for in January was turned back.
The four-year contract includes no basic pay increases the first two years, but a 2 percent increase the third year and a 2 1/2 percent increase the fourth. Equally important, CPS dropped a demand that the teachers begin making their own pension contributions, which for decades CPS has paid for them. The pension pickup will continue for current teachers but not for new teachers.
The Chicago Public Schools continue to face enormous financial challenges, but on Tuesday we saw progress.
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