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Teachers union president: CPS committed 'grant fraud'

Chicago Public Schools must return $33 million to the federal government Friday.

That's because the district doesn't meet one of the grant's key requirements: having the Chicago Teachers Union on board.

The money was awarded in 2010 to develop a system to pay teachers based on performance in 25 schools. Alicia Winckler, the district’s human resources department head, said she's "extremely disappointed in the missed opportunity."

But CTU president Karen Lewis says the union told CPS from the get-go that it wouldn’t sign on to any form of merit pay. She said the district is committing "grant fraud."

"You have not met the terms but you go ahead and you take the money. That’s fraud," Lewis said.

Late Thursday, Lewis said she's requesting both the CPS inspector general and the U.S. Department of Education investigate why CPS accepted the money when it did not technically qualify.

The pilot also would have awarded bonuses for things like working in high-needs schools or mentoring other teachers.

The two parties are in the middle of tense negotiations over a new contract. Lewis said CPS proposed a performance-based pay system during negotiations.

Winckler said she could not comment on whether CPS planned to implement performance pay in the future, because it hinges on the result of those negotiations.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the grant has nothing to do with contract negotiations.

"This is coming on line anyway. It’s reality. Who would want to pass up an opportunity to get $35 million to be used to reward teachers for the great work their doing?” Carroll said.

By law, CPS does have to tie teacher evaluations to student performance, but they are not required to develop a compensation system based on the new evaluations.

More than 50 districts have recieved and are implementing similar grants.

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