A much-anticipated report from an independent fact-finder tasked with sorting out the contract dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools is “virtuallyunchanged” from a recent offer the union shot down, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.
That could put CTU leadership in a box to re-sell almost the same deal that their 40-member bargaining team shot down in February — or considerstrikingwith only weeks of classes left.
The proposal that union president Karen Lewis considered a “serious offer” offered net raises over four years, the phasing out over two years of a 7-percent pension contribution CPS has been making on members’ behalf and a return to raises for continuing education and experience — known as “steps and lanes” — as soon as the nextschool year.
None of those main economic points changed in the findings made by arbiter Steven Bierig, the sources said. Several non-economic items that were part of the earlier offer also were noted by Biereg, according to the sources. Thoseinclude giving teachers more control over grading, increasing the number of community schools andeliminatingpaperwork,improvementstheCTU hasclamored for.
James Franczek, chief negotiator for the board of education, would not comment Friday night. Neither would CTU attorney Robert Bloch, who said he’d be happy to once the confidential report is made public.
CPS, likewise, is waiting for the official release.
“CPS looks forward to receiving the fact finder’s official report, as well as giving it the thorough consideration it deserves,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement. “Over the past several months, both CPS and the CTU sat down for countless hours with an independent, third party labor expert so he could issue a recommendation that is fair to our teachers, students and taxpayers.”
The union’s “Big Bargaining Team”unanimously turned down the last offer saying CPS needed new revenue or it was offeringraises while requiring a set number of teachers to retire. It also didn’t trust that CPScould actually enforce a cap on charters while a state boardstill haspower to overturn the district.
Thereport’s contents will be presented to union and district negotiators on Saturday, and remains private for 15 days or until one of them rejects the terms. Rejection starts a 30-day “cooling off” period until members could legally strike.Should both parties agree, his deal becomes the new contract.
State law requires the fact-finder to weigh in on disputes before the teachers could legally walk off the job. He publishes his findings so the public and all CTU members can see what’s being negotiated.
CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey has said recently that union leadership is likely to reject Bierig’s recommendations.
“I don’t have very high expectations that the fact-finder is going to write our contract for us,” Sharkey told the Sun-Times earlier in April. “But I think right now the expectation of our members is there’s not going to be anything much in here that we’re going to find encouraging, and that we’re likely to reject it even though we’re going to pay attention to what’s in it.”