Chicago Teachers Reach Last Minute Deal

Stacks of picket signs wait for Chicago Teachers Union members to pick up outside union's strike headquarters. AP / Charles Rex Arbogast

Chicago teachers struck a deal with the nation’s third-largest school district late Monday to avert a strike that would have shut down the city’s public schools just a few hours before union members were expected to walk out.

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union said at a news conference just before midnight Tuesday that after more than a year of negotiations, the two sides had hammered out an agreement that isn’t perfect but is good for students, teachers and the city.

The deal still must be approved by the union’s House of Delegates and the full membership, a process that could take weeks.

“There will be classes in the morning,” she said. “It wasn’t easy as you all know … we’re very pleased we were able to come to this tentative agreement.”

If teachers had walked out, it would have been the second major strike in the tenure of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. The CTU had directed its roughly 28,000 members to report to picket lines Tuesday morning unless they heard otherwise from union negotiators for a strike that would have affected nearly 400,000 students.

The four-year proposal includes cost-of-living increases of 2 percent in the third year and 2.5 percent in the fourth year. It doesn’t require current teachers to pay more toward their pensions — a change CPS had been seeking and the union rejected earlier this year. Future CPS hires would have to pick up that additional pension cost. The tentative agreement also addresses class sizes for younger grades by assigning an assistant to any class with more than 32 students.

Emanuel said the proposal ensures teachers are respected and “appropriately rewarded.” He said it also would strengthen CPS finances and reassure parents and taxpayers that the two sides were able to work together. There was no immediate information about how much the deal would cost or how the financially struggling district would pay for it.

“Students across Chicago will be in school this morning and on the path to a stronger and brighter future,” Emanuel said at an early morning news conference at City Hall.

Image: Stacks of picket signs wait for Chicago Teachers Union members to pick up outside union’s strike headquarters. AP / Charles Rex Arbogast