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Chicago Teachers To Vote on Contract Thursday And Friday

Nearly 25,000 Chicago teachers and support staff will vote Thursday and Friday on the tentative agreement reached with the school district in late October.

That’s the deal that ended the 11-day teachers strike.

Results are expected as early as Friday evening.

WBEZ Education Adriana Cardona Maguigad shares what’s at stake.

Is the tentative agreement likely to be ratified?

Unlike the strike authorization vote, which required 75% of votes in favor, the contract ratification needs just a simple majority.

Union leaders and experts have said the contract likely will be ratified. But we should keep in mind that about 40% of the union delegates voted against the tentative deal on Oct. 30.

I met Nyla Hasan outside the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters that evening. She is one of the delegates who voted against it. She is a bilingual teacher at Scammon Elementary on the Northwest Side. She said her school urged her to vote no over certain key issues including “class size, the [demand for teacher] morning prep — because many of our teachers feel they needed that — and veteran [teacher] pay.”

Since the union delegates voted to suspend the strike, teachers have had more time to fully study this new agreement.

What happens if the contract isn’t ratified?

When the teachers voted to end the strike, they actually only suspended it.

If teachers vote down the contract, Chicago Public Schools and union officials will have to resume negotiations.

Members of the union’s House of Delegates will have to meet within five business days to vote to resume the strike or to continue to bargain while staying at work, with the option of going on strike at a future point.

Labor experts say it’s highly unlikely that after the suspension of a strike there would be a rejection of a tentative deal. But rank and file members sometimes reject contract offers brought to them by their leadership if they believe more could have been achieved.

There is a lot at stake if the teachers reject the tentative agreement. There could be a legal battle if the union resumed the strike on issues the CTU is prohibited from striking over, like class size. Students could miss a lot more days.

Remind us what teachers won in this contract and what they did not get?

Some of the big wins include the district agreeing to recruit a social worker and nurse for every school. Special education saw some gains.

The union also won some relief for overcrowded classes, though some teachers like Hasan wanted more. Under this agreement, the district is setting aside $35 million to relieve overcrowded classes — and high-need schools will get help first.

What they didn’t get includes: the 30 minute prep time in the mornings that elementary school teachers wanted and that they consider to be very important.

The union also wanted a three-year contract, instead it got it a five-year deal. Also, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is making up just five of the 11 school days lost to the strike.

What else has happened since the strike ended?

Teachers and students have been trying to go back to their routines, but it’s been hard.

Students have missed three more school days since the strike due to a professional development day, Veterans Day and report card pick-up. These additional days off have made it hard for students and teachers to get caught up on all the instructional time that was missed.

The district recently announced the five dates it proposes using as make-up days. Those include the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, cutting winter break two days short on January 2 and 3, and extending the school year to include June 17 and 18. The Chicago Board of Education will vote on the new calendar, as well as the new contract, on Nov. 20.

There is also a proposed amendment to this year’s school budget to cover the new contract, which CPS says is expected to cost $1.5 billion over five years. CPS says the cost this year is $48 million to cover the contracts for CTU and SEIU, the union representing school support staff that also went on strike.

The district plans to use $68 million it is saving by only making up five of the 11 days missed because of the strike. Teachers won’t be paid for those six days. The Board of Education will vote on the amended budget at the Nov. 20 meeting as well.

If the contract isn’t ratified by an overwhelming majority, union leaders know they’ll have some work to do to bring people together.

Adriana Cardona-Maguigad covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @AdrianaCardMag.

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