CTU Advances Teacher Contract Ratification Vote | WBEZ
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CTU Advances Teacher Contract Ratification Vote

About 27,000 teachers and support staff will vote next week to ratify the tentative agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools.

The decision to send the contract to the full membership comes after a meeting of the union’s 800-member representative body, called the House of Delegates.

The House of Delegates includes representatives from each school, as well as people who represent groups like social workers. In the contract process, the job of the House of Delegates is to set a strike date and to recommend the full membership authorize a strike or ratify an agreement. 

About two-thirds of the House of Delegates voted in favor of the contract Wednesday night. Full membership to vote next week Thursday and Friday.

If the House of Delegates had not endorsed the tentative agreement, union leadership could still bring it to the full membership for ratification. But the House of Delegates vote would be a sign the deal was in trouble. The two sides would likely go back to negotiations.

This deal was reached just hours before the Oct. 11 strike date. The four-year contract includes cost of living raises for teachers in the last two years and raises for education and experience, called steps and lanes, in the last three years. 

It also allows current teachers to keep a 7 percent pension pickup -- something the school district wanted to strip from teachers. 

The contract would last through June 2019. This is the last time the union will have contract negotiations before the end of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s second term. The union had wanted a three- year contract so they would have more leverage if Emanuel ran for reelection. 

Some teachers said they were disappointed the union didn’t push harder for enforceable class size limits, get a guarantee of more social workers and librarians, and set specific caseload size for clinicians who work with special education students. 

It also didn’t do anything to bring back teachers laid off over the last year while the contract was being negotiated. Since last year, more than 900 teacher positions were closed.

The contract also allows for more economic layoffs and gives CPS leadership the right to impose furlough days, which result in a pay cut to teachers. 

The Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which is the group CTU President Karen Lewis and Vice President Jesse Sharkey are part of, did not endorse the contract. 

Union leaders said there was debate inside the House of Delegates meeting. 

There is precedent for the House of Delegates -- and even the full membership -- to vote down tentative agreements, sending union leaders back to the table.

In 2003, the membership failed to ratify an agreement, sending then CTU President Debbie Lynch and her team back to the bargaining table. Teachers eventually approved a renegotiated contract, but voted Lynch out of office in 2004. 

The next contract in 2008 was approved by only 56 percent of the full membership of the union. 

In 2012, newly elected president Karen Lewis led the teachers out on the first strike in 25 years. Five days into the strike, she brought a tentative agreement to union membership. But they voted to continue the strike for two more days as they reviewed the contract. 

When that tentative agreement went to the full membership, it was ratified by 80 percent of the membership. 

Sarah Karp is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her at @SSKedreporter.

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