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Union releases details of pact that could end teachers’ strike

Chicago Teachers UniVice President Jesse Sharkey emerges from meeting briefs reporters Sunday September 16 2012 Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey emerges from a meeting and briefs reporters on Sunday, September 16, 2012 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:52AM



Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey stepped out into the sunlight Sunday shortly after noon to say negotiators have written a tentative agreement to present to the larger union negotiating committee. The news comes a few hours before a 3 p.m. meeting of delegates who could call off the teachers’ strike today.

“I cannot say if there will be school tomorrow,” said Sharkey, who said he had been in CTU attorney Robert Bloch’s law office at 8 S. Michigan since 9 a.m. Saturday working out the agreement’s details.

Negotiators have said teachers could be back in the classroom as soon as Monday. CTU leadership is putting the deal into the hands of the union’s bigger negotiating committee ahead of the 3 p.m. House of Delegates meeting to weigh the offer. The delegates could decide to end the first strike in 25 years today, delay a decision because they want more time to review the deal, or end the strike while they gather input on the deal from the teachers in the schools that they represent.

“They could also ask for at least 24 hours to talk to individual members in their schools before making a decision on what to do next,” the CTU said in a news release.

Early Sunday morning, CTU President Karen Lewis was non-committal when she left talks with district officials. When asked if she would recommend CPS’s latest offer to her members, Lewis said, “I’m not even going to discuss that. We got a whole bunch of stuff we got to do.”

Lewis said she did not know when the bargaining teams would resume meetings on Sunday, but she said union officials do plan on discussing the language of the proposal.

“I’m very tired,” Lewis said before she stepped into a cab.

In the written release about the contract, Lewis was more supportive of the deal.

“We are a democratic body and therefore we want to ensure all of our members have had the chance to weigh-in on what we were able to win,” Lewis was quoted as saying. “We believe this is a good contract, however, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our district.”

A Chicago Teachers Union news release late Saturday said the agreement includes:

◆ Raises of 3 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent over the next three years, with the option to extend the deal to four years “by mutual agreement” with another 3 percent raise.

◆ Preservation of extra “step’’ increases based on experience, with new increases in the three highest steps.

◆ The hiring of 600 additional teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other so-called “special’’classes.

◆ The requirement that teachers be allowed to “follow their students” to other schools if the teachers school is subject to “school action,” such as closure.

◆ 10 months of “true recall” to the same school if a position opens.

◆ One-half of all CPS hires must be laid-off CTU members.

◆ In new teacher evaluations, limits to 30 percent the weight given to student growth, down from what had been a maximum of 40 percent, and provides the right to appeal a “neutral” rating.

◆ Reimbursement of school supplies up to $250.

◆ An agreement to hire more nurses, social workers and school counselors if the system gets new revenue, including from tax increment financing funds.

A CPS spokeswoman would not immediately confirm the union’s version of the new pact early Sunday.

Union leaders were hearing rumblings Saturday that delegates wanted more time to bounce the deal off of their membership.

“There’s a move underfoot to ensure delegates don’t call off the strike until they go back to their schools and get feedback,” said one source close to the negotiations. “This is high drama.”

If the House of Delegates does not vote on Sunday to suspend the strike, the prospect of a Sunday sundown Rosh Hashanah holiday could further complicate the situation. Observant Jews would not normally work until the second holiest period in the Jewish calendar ends, at sundown Tuesday.

The CTU’s Karen Lewis, Sharkey and Bloch are Jewish, as is Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who drew union ire by the way he imposed his signature longer school day.



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