Teacher deal makes CPS reauthorize $5.4 billion operating budget

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Parent Ayanna Jenkins speaks at a Chicago Board of Education meeting last month. File Photo.| Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times

Now that it has reached a tentative contract settlement with Chicago teachers, Chicago Public Schools must re-do its $5.4 billion operating budget and hold a new series of public hearings.

But saying it cannot accomplish those tasks by mid-November, the Board of Education has decided to skip its scheduled Nov. 16 meeting altogether and move the next one up to Dec. 7.

The consolidation leaves one fewer opportunity this year for members of the public, who get just two minutes each per meeting, to address the full board on any topic they wish. The board made its announcement Monday in its published agenda ahead of its October meeting to be held on Wednesday. District spokeswoman Emily Bittner could not explain who decided to skip a meeting or why it was necessary to do so.

She said the board members are expected to attend the public hearings, but wouldn’t say when those will be held.

The district also has yet to release cost details of the agreement it reached with the Chicago Teachers Union just in time to avoid a strike. Bittner said all those details will be released once the CTU’s 25,000 members ratify the agreement into a contract.

The ratification vote — conducted via secret ballot — will be held Thursday and Friday at the 500-plus schools staffed by CTU members.

The Sun-Times has learned that the entire four-year deal, which preserves a 7 percent pension benefit for existing teachers and grants modest raises in the last two years, is estimated to cost about $8.9 billion. Some of the new funds expected to pay for some of the contract benefits will come from $88 million allocated to CPS in surplus tax increment financing.

The budget already approved by the school board — which considered it “balanced” — depended on savings from labor concessions as well as some $215 million in state funds that still are contingent on lawmakers agreeing on “pension reform” in coming months.

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