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School board president scolds teachers union for tactics

There was a lot on the CPS Board of Education's meeting agenda Wednesday—the budget, a new healthy snack policy, and a three-year arts education plan.

And with school closings on the horizon, tensions between the board and the Chicago Teachers Union are starting to flare up again.

Board President David Vitale said he thinks the union’s is taking things too far.

A representative from the union is allowed to speak at every board meeting without signing up. But before CTU’s recording secretary Michael Brunson began his statement, Vitale had a few words.

“Your organization continues to spew lies about us, particularly Ms. Pritzker,” Vitale said referring to a CTU march on one of Board member Penny Pritzker’s Hyatt hotels. “You also threaten us. You had your members march on my home. You shouldn’t be trying to intimidate people. So I really do hope, if you want to have us continue to act civilly to you, that you would act civilly to us,”

Brunson said he wants to be the peacemaker, but reiterated the union’s stance.

“We will not allow you to shut down our schools,” Brunson said.

An announcement on which schools could be closed may not come until March 31. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has requested a waiver from the law that requires the district to announce closings on Dec. 1.

Byrd-Bennett again emphasized the need to close underenrolled schools in order to “right size” the district and address looming budget shortfalls. CPS officials have said they could save between $500,000 to $800,000 per school.

Also on Wednesday, the Board approved its amended budget, which reflects the costs of the new CTU contract. At hearings last month, CPS budget officials said they would renegotiate a number of other contracts in order to make room for the cost of the teachers’ contract.

School officials touted a few renegotiated contracts Wednesday that will collectively save more than $7 million.

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