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Updated: September 19, 2012 3:01PM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed students back from their unscheduled fall break on Wednesday, eager to trumpet the benefits of a new teachers contract.

He was not, however, ready to delve into the specifics of how to pay for it.

“My first goal was to right the ship academically,” Emanuel said in a news conference at Chopin Elementary School, 2450 W. Rice.

The new contract with the Chicago Teachers Union improves the academic environment for students and the bottom line for taxpayers, he said.

“This contract, unlike past, is more frugal than past and yet it ensures that we invest in children educationally and we were not going to continue to shortchange all the educational objectives for our children.”

The new contract includes two of the mayor’s priorities: a longer school day and a longer school year.

Whether schools will have to be closed to help pay for the increased costs is still an unanswered question.

The mayor said the contract cost an additional $74 million — compared with $129 million for the last contract — because of changes in sick days, vacation days and a new wellness plan.

“We have other tough things to do, I never denied that we didn’t have tough things to do,” he said “but I can’t sit here and say in the first five minutes of this contract we negotiated that I can tell you exactly what’s going to happen four or five months from now.”

Emanuel would not speculate whether higher cigarette and amusement taxes would be needed.

“No, we’re going to make other changes,” he said. “I don’t know today and I’m not going to stand here but we know what we can afford and what we’re going to do and we’re going to make changes throughout the system.”

Emanuel repeatedly pointed to the contract’s successes: the longer day and year, principal discretion in hiring, a new teacher evaluation system and common core curriculum.

“I’m excited our kids are back,” he said.



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