The Chicago Teachers Union’s rejection of the latest contract offer may put more pressure on the General Assembly to take some action regarding Chicago Public Schools.
CTU’s “Big Bargaining Team” turned down the latest proposal from CPS Monday, saying in a statement the offer “"does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the longer-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city."
The offer involved increasing teacher contributions to their pensions and health insurance, in exchange for raises of 2.75 percent next year and 3 percent the following two years.
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To Gov. Bruce Rauner, the deal presented to the union was “unaffordable.”
“It was more kicking the can and just getting by. (Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel) was pushing off the day of reckoning, and the teachers’ union still rejected that,” Rauner said Tuesday in Springfield.
Rauner’s preferred solution is legislation first proposed several weeks ago to allow CPS to be controlled by state-appointed oversight board, which would then be dealing with CTU in contract talks.
“Give the state the ability to step in,” Rauner said. “If the mayor can’t get a deal done with the teachers’ union, I guarantee you we working from the state can get a deal done.”
Democratic legislators from the city like State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) disagree, saying Rauner’s proposals, like allowing local units of government like CPS to declare bankruptcy, have hurt contract talks and worsened the financial condition of CPS.
“The rate at which CPS can borrow money has gone through the roof, and I think the governor’s statements about bankruptcy were directly responsible for that,” Guzzardi said. “The idea of taking over the district is not helping either.”
CPS has already laid off hundreds of administrative workers, with teacher layoffs still a possibility. It had called off a plan to borrow $875 million after being offered record-high interest rates, while its latest budget relied on $480 million in pension assistance from the state which has yet to be authorized by state lawmakers.
Without a labor agreement, State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) said there’s more pressure on the General Assembly to act on the CPS request for state help.
“Our children are important and we have to be sure that they’re able to attend class, and if the CTU strikes, our streets would be flooded with youth. So yes, I believe it’s more important than ever before now,” Van Pelt said.
While union members have authorized a strike, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Monday the earliest teachers could walk off the job is May 23, a month before the last day of classes for CPS students.