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Teachers union seeks 5 percent raises, says ‘rich people’ will pay for them

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates (center) speaks at a press conference alongside CTU President Jesse Sharkey (right). | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates (center) speaks at a press conference on teacher contract demands with CTU President Jesse Sharkey (right). | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Chicago Teachers Union leaders on Tuesday submitted their first contract proposals — including 5-percent pay raises — to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, though most negotiations are expected to fall to the next tenant of City Hall’s fifth floor.

The teachers’ current contract expires June 30, more than a month after Emanuel’s successor is sworn into office following the Feb. 26 mayoral election and possible April 2 runoff election.

“Rahm Emanuel still is the mayor of the city of Chicago and will be until early May,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said, holding up a packet of the union’s demands outside Emanuel’s City Hall office.

“He’s got to do his job in advance bargaining so when it becomes a new mayor’s turn to take over, we can actually land a contract before school starts next fall.”

Sharkey laid out four provisions of the teachers’ proposals: increased pay and benefits, increased staffing, reduced class sizes and “social demands” guaranteeing sanctuary status for undocumented students in CPS classrooms and increased availability of affordable housing citywide.

In addition to 5-percent raises for CTU members, the union is seeking librarians and nurses at every school, heightened special education and bilingual student support services, class sizes capped at 24 for early childhood education and a counselor for every 250 students

City officials did not release details on a potential counter-proposal.

“CPS is led by two lifelong Chicago educators who understand the supports our teachers need to be successful, and we look forward to beginning productive conversations to work toward a contract that honors the contributions of our educators and supports the best interests of Chicago students and families,” district spokesman Michael Passman said in an email.

Emanuel spokeswoman Lauren Markowitz touted the district’s academic gains and said, “As discussions around the next contract begin, we must ensure this forward momentum continues so that every child in every community has an education that matches their potential.”

Union leaders did not say how much their plan would cost, but Gates acknowledged the price will go up from the current contract, estimated at $8.9 billion when it was ratified in 2016.

“Where would the money come from? Rich people,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. That, she said, could include corporate taxes and revenue from legalized recreational marijuana, sports betting and a Chicago casino — ideas that have gained traction in Springfield with the election of Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“We have a governor who says he is going to fund fully education in the state of Illinois. No more roadblocks. No more passing the buck to [former Gov. Bruce] Rauner.

“There should not be a number placed on the education of the same black and brown kids we parade around when we get elected to office,” Gates said.

Earlier this month, the union released poll results suggesting a majority of likely voters supported the union ahead of formal contract talks.

The CTU’s endorsed mayoral candidate, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, has been mired in controversy in recent weeks over her ties to federally charged Ald. Ed Burke (14th).

“We’re going to support a new mayor to the extent to they do the right thing by our schools, and we’re going to act independently of them and fight them to the extent they don’t,” Sharkey said.

Union leaders did not broach the subject of a possible work stoppage on Tuesday. CTU members went on strike for a week in 2012 in Emanuel’s first round of teacher contract negotiations.