CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union took one step closer to going on strike Monday after rejecting an independent panel's recommendations in its contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools.
A "Fact-Finding Panel" drawing on input from both CPS and the Teachers Union recommended across-the-board teacher pay increases of 3 to 3.5 percent each year, totaling 16 percent, over the five-year contract. It also calls for a 1 percent increase in employee contributions for healthcare costs over that same period.
In a dissenting opinion, the teachers union's representative on the panel said the report, “...simply ignores 85 percent of the disputed issues.”
At a news conference Monday, CTU President Jesse Sharkey formally rejected the report's recommendations. Sharkey said it didn't adequately address class sizes and other staffing issues, including the number of nurses, social workers and librarians. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had campaigned on a promise to have a librarian for each school.
"Though the terms are said to be generous by the mayor and CPS, they come in the context of nearly a decade of austerity and cuts for Chicago teachers and other school staff," Sharkey said. "We’ve endured three freezes, multiple furloughs, layoffs and cuts to our benefits."
The soonest CTU could strike is Sept. 25.
CPS and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said those other issues are addressed in a budget being released this week, which includes $73 million in additional classroom spending over last year.
"We’ve put our money where our mouth is by documenting it in our budget," Lightfoot said.
Chicago Teacher's Union news conference:
Meanwhile, the school board accepted the report, and offered teachers a 16% raise over the next five years.
"This would represent the largest and most robust salary and benefits package in CTU history," Lightfoot said at a news conference Monday. "Under this offer, the average teacher will see their salary rise by 24 percent."
Teachers were scheduled to return to school Monday to prepare for the fall semester.
"There’s no reason a deal can’t be reached by the start of the school year," Lightfoot said.
Negotiations between the teachers union and the city are expected to resume Monday afternoon.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CTU President Janice Jackson news conference: