CPS still mum on what new CTU agreement costs

SHARE CPS still mum on what new CTU agreement costs

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey | Sun-Times file photo

The deal reached late Monday night after a marathon 12-hour bargaining stint between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education cannot yet be called a contract.

Nor will Chicago Public Schools reveal how much it will cost city taxpayers.

The eight-page tentative agreement that was signed minutes before a midnight strike deadline still needs the full CTU membership to ratify it.

The ratification requires a simple majority. In 2012, after teachers walked picket lines for seven school days, 79.1 percent of members voted in favor.

Meanwhile, the union’s governing House of Delegates will make recommendations to members and set up a referendum at school sites by which the vote will take place in the coming weeks.

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CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Tuesday that the delegates wouldn’t be called this week due to logistics, including a Jewish holiday Wednesday and a state-level conference for union teachers on Thursday and Friday.

In theory, the delegates could tank the deal even though the CTU’s constitution says that “the next people who get to make a decision are our membership,” Sharkey said. “Members follow their delegates.”

The CTU estimates that the deal as written puts about $400 million more into schools than a January proposal from the school board.

Delegates aren’t expected to shoot it down, despite some dissent from “overworked” clinicians who didn’t see many guarantees.

CPS clearly understands the costs of the agreement it presented on Monday but did not release any of them a day later.

The deal grants cost of living raises to all CTU members in years three and four of the four-year deal, while letting existing members keep a 7 percent pension benefit the district has been making on their behalf. All new employees hired after Jan. 1 won’t see that benefit, but instead will get a 7 percent pay bump within six months.

The “pension pickup” had been threatened by the cash-strapped CPS in previous offers, partly because the district needed teachers to sacrifice to convince the state to hand over $215 million contingent on legislators passing “pension reform” by January.

District spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in an email: “For the District, not only does this deal provide teachers with a raise and secure their pensions, it also achieves meaningful savings that helps stabilize our finances.” But she could not provide any detail of those savings.

“During the coming days, CPS will respect the CTU’s process for deliberating on this contract, and we expect to have more details to share after the CTU has had a chance to share information with their members,” Bittner said. “Finally, we are hopeful that if the House of Delegates agrees to this contract, we can work together and present a united front to Springfield in our efforts to secure education funding reform from the state.”

CPS’ clinicians — the umbrella covering about 1,400 social workers, school psychologists and nurses — did win a promise that they won’t have to cover “case management” duties, freeing them to work with students, but they were disappointed that the agreement contains no guarantees for them. No caps on clinician-student ratios, for example, in CPS-run schools with about 300,000 students but only about 300 social workers.

That ratio is about five times the recommendation set out for urban schools by the National Association of Social Workers, said retired school social worker Susan Hickey, who until recently was a member of the Big Bargaining Team.

The clinicians feel “overworked,” she said, a criticism backed by many on social media. “We brought this to the union in saying you’ve got to put caps on us, you’ve got to help us here. . . . Even to have a committee to negotiate our workload, something at this point in time.”

Lewis headed off those concerns Monday night, saying, “It’s not a perfect contract.”

Sharkey said Tuesday: “We tried but could not achieve it. . . . I would hope that people would judge what’s in the tentative agreement within whole context of what’s going on in education. . . . It’s fair to say we can aspire to do better without saying that this tentative agreement is a failure.”

CPS also agreed to hold the total number of charter campuses it has — currently 127 — over the lifetime of the contract. That means it will have to close existing schools by 2019 in order to open new ones.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools head Andrew Broy said state law would still require CPS to consider any new applications presented by operators.

“In this case, political accommodation trumped sound policy. Seeking temporary labor peace by selling out high-quality charter schools will come back to haunt us,” Broy said.

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