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New Chicago Contract Ends Lawsuits

“CPS, teachers end legal battles in new contract”
by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah
Chicago Tribune
September 26, 2012

A tentative contract between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools brings with it closure on lawsuits and labor grievances filed by both sides before and during the seven-day strike, according to a copy of the agreement posted online by the union.

With teachers ending their walkout last week, the union agreed to give up its fight over the 4 percent raise that was eliminated by the district last year because of financial problems. The union also said it would end a protracted legal battle over the layoffs of 1,300 teachers in 2010.

The latter case was before a federal judge after many twists and turns. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had sided with the union; then the Illinois Supreme Court backed the district’s position that the laid-off teachers did not have a right to be rehired when jobs opened up. The union has now agreed to drop the lawsuit after reaching a pact that allows eligible laid-off teachers, including those dismissed in 2010, to be put into a hiring pool. Fifty percent of new positions must go to laid-off teachers.

Contract language, which apparently was still being hammered out as late as Monday, also details the order of layoffs. With a new evaluation system not rating teachers until the end of the school year, most layoffs of tenured teachers will continue to be based on seniority this year. Reformers have long fought for those decisions to be based on teacher performance.

Other matters, such as the union’s Sept. 5 complaint about unfair labor practices and the city’s bid for an injunction ending the strike, were dropped after being addressed by the agreement.

But even as teachers are preparing to vote on the contract Tuesday, concerns persist over the district possibly closing up to 120 underenrolled and low-performing schools in coming years.

At a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, teachers union recording secretary Michael Brunson called for an end to “saber rattling” and called on CPS to release its school closing plans.

“You need to release that information to the CTU and the public so we can openly debate the merits of this proposal,” Brunson said.

Board President David Vitale denied there was any such plan but reiterated the district position as stated at the negotiating table. “We’ve said we know there’s excess capacity in the system, and over time we need to reduce it,” Vitale said.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first for the CPS board since the contract agreement was reached. Board members will not vote on the contract until Oct. 24, and CPS has yet to say how it will pay for the new teacher contract. The district must modify its budget to take into account the new raises.

The contract calls for base salary increases of 3 percent this year and 2 percent in each of the following two years, as well as some lucrative raises for experience and advanced education. While some teachers will earn raises worth about 25 percent over three years, the average teacher, who has 14 years of experience and a master’s degree or higher, will get 7.5 to 9.6 percent gains over the length of the contract.

The union has touted its success in fighting off Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempts to institute merit pay and more stringent requirements in a new teacher evaluation system, as well as securing a recall policy for top-performing teachers.

The mayor, in turn, has boasted of the district’s success in limiting teacher raises, maintaining a principal’s right to determine which teachers to hire, instituting a state-required teacher evaluation system that takes into account student performance, and adding a longer school day and year.

With the tentative agreement now calling for 175 full school days and six half-days starting with this school year, the board on Tuesday also gave schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard the authority to change the calendar this year and work with teachers to determine the seven makeup days from the strike.

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