CTU, CPS reach tentative agreement; Classes held today

CHICAGO -- Students and teachers in Chicago are heading back to the classroom after the Chicago Teachers Union and the nation's third-largest school district averted a strike with a late-night tentative contract agreement.

The union had set Tuesday as a strike date, but both sides reached a tentative agreement on Monday night. The decision averts the second major strike for Chicago teachers since 2012.

But just before a midnight deadline, the union and CPS said Monday it had reached a deal. It still must be approved by the union's House of Delegates and its full membership, a process that could take weeks.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and union President Karen Lewis both said they were relieved that the district's nearly 400,000 students will be in class Tuesday.

Negotiations had stretched into a second year between the CTU and the financially troubled Chicago Public Schools over pension contributions, pay raises, staffing levels and classroom funding.

Union leaders had said teachers didn't want to strike but were worried about threats to their pay and benefits.

CPS officials had said teachers deserve a raise but that the district is facing massive financial challenges.

Teachers have been working without a contract since June of last year and were negotiating with the City nearly until Monday’s Midnight deadline. Among their demands: more money per pupil, a guarantee of no staff cuts, no pay cuts, and an average salary of $69,000/ year.

The last contract offered by CPS would give teachers raises, but the CTU says those increases would be eaten up by teachers contributing more to pensions and healthcare. According to 2015 data released by the Chicago Tribune, CPS is the fifth highest-paying district in the country for first-year teachers.

A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Chicago will divert money from special taxing districts to public schools as part of a deal with the city's teachers union that averted a strike.

Spokesman Adam Collins said Tuesday that the city has a $175 million surplus from its tax increment financing, or TIF, funds and that roughly half — about $88 million — will go to CPS.

It isn't clear how much the new four-year contract with teachers will cost the city overall.