Teachers Say Latest Offer Disappointing

By Babwin, Don | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), September 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Teachers Say Latest Offer Disappointing


Babwin, Don, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


CHICAGO - The vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union said Saturday the city school district's latest offer in contract negotiations was disappointing and that the wrangling would continue throughout the weekend, as tens of thousands of teachers readied to walk off the job on Monday.

Chicago teachers said they're prepared to walk off the job for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. A strike would cause massive disruptions in the nation's third-largest school district, which has 400,000 students.

Both sides met Saturday to try to close the remaining gaps, but union Vice President Jesse Sharkey told reporters about an hour into the talks that there was more work to be done because the district's latest proposal fell short.

"The offer they came back with was disappointing to say the least and frankly there's not enough pieces of the puzzle there yet to make a picture," he said. "We're going to go back tomorrow."

A spokeswoman for Chicago Public Schools could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, hundreds of teachers stopped by the strike headquarters the union opened Saturday to pick up signs and T- shirts.

The district offered a cost-of-living raise of 2 percent a year for four years, which the union said was unacceptable - especially after Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent raise, citing budget problems. A school district spokeswoman has said that raise will not be made up and the district will not address it in negotiations. The union has lowered the amount it's asking for, but it has not said what its counterproposal is now. Only weeks ago, it sought a 19 percent raise in the first year of the contract.

Teachers also are concerned about new teacher evaluations, health benefits and how a longer school day for students is being implemented.

HARD FEELINGS

Negotiations did not get off to a good start. The union and school district began negotiating in November on a contract that was to expire seven months later, in June. Things heated up in May, when teachers picketed over a lack of progress on talks. Then in June, 90 percent of teachers voted to authorize a strike if a contract wasn't reached over the summer.

It all began when Emanuel last year asked the union to re-open its existing contract and accept 2 percent pay raises in exchange for lengthening the day by 90 minutes. The union refused, noting he'd already rescinded 4 percent raises over the summer. Emanuel, who had won legislative approval to lengthen the school day, then attempted to go around the union by asking individual schools to waive the contract and add 90 minutes to the day - until the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board told him he couldn't. …

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