CHICAGO – Rank-and-file Chicago teachers will vote on the proposed four-year contract Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union reached on the eve of a planned strike.
The 800-member CTU House of Delegates on Wednesday endorsed the contract, sending it on to teachers for ratification. The delegates' vote represented a significant hurdle for the deal after a previous deal struck early this year by negotiators was shot down by the delegates and not sent on to teachers. A simple majority of the voting rank-and-file must approve the contract.
"After negotiating closely with president Karen Lewis and the CTU's leadership, we believe that this is a fair contract for both parties because it would give teachers a raise, improve their quality of life in the classroom and most importantly, allow students to continue building on their monumental achievements," CPS said in a statement. About 27,000 teachers and support staff will vote next week on the contract.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration and CPS officials have declined to put a price tag on the contract but have argued that the long-term costs are on par with the projected costs the contract rejected earlier this year. The district's $5.4 billion fiscal 2017 budget incorporated the expense of the failed proposal.
Emanuel freed up an additional $88 million to help the district cover the costs of the contract by declaring a $175 million tax-increment financing surplus last week.
The junk-rated district is struggling with negative cash flow and remains reliant on short-term credit lines to stay afloat. It gave up efforts in the new contract to shed a $130 million expense incurred from its longtime coverage of 7% of teachers' 9% pension contribution but teachers will forgo cost of living raises in the first two years of the proposed pact and pay more for healthcare.
Market participants and rating agencies had warned that a strike would represent a significant blow to the district's turnaround efforts or prospects for lowering its borrowing costs. The district paid a punishing rate that hit a high of 8.5% earlier this year.