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CPS teachers overwhelmingly approve new contract

Updated: November 5, 2012 11:54AM

The deal that ended the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years was ratified overwhelming by a majority of union members, according to a vote count Wednesday.

Just over 79 percent of those who voted on the proposed contract approved it, Chicago Teachers Union officials said. Only a simple majority was required for ratification.

The approval margin was the largest since the last strike in 1987, said CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle. More than 80 percent of CTU members voted on the contract.

To formally seal the deal, it must now be approved by Chicago School Board members. “This shows overwhelming recognition by our members that this contract represents a victory for students, communities and our profession,’’ CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement.

Chicago School Board President David Vitale said: “We can now demonstrate to our students that even when two sides start far apart, they can find common ground and reach a resolution.’’

The new contract, which replaces one that expired June 30, gives kids the longer school day promised by Mayor Rahm Emanuel without substantially increasing the teacher work day.

It offers teachers raises of 3 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent over the next three years, and an additional 3 percent in an optional fourth year — although Chicago Public Schools officials have yet to say what they will cut to cover this year’s $74 million portion.

Under the deal, part of a teacher’s rating will be tied to student test growth — but by no more than the 30 percent minimum allowed in state law in the first three years.

The agreement provides some new help to teachers displaced by school closings, consolidations and phaseouts, while allowing principals to hire the teachers they want.

“I don’t think anyone is doing cartwheels over the contract, but I don’t think anyone was shedding tears either,’’ said Andrew Martinek, CTU delegate at Gage Park High School.

Teachers understand that “the fight is not over,’’ Martinek said. He noted that CPS officials are due to release the list of schools targeted for closing by Dec. 1.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) filed a resolution Tuesday that could help teachers in that next battle.

The resolution, signed by 32 aldermen, demanded that CPS officials explain the rationale for planning to open more charter schools while also planning to decrease the “the inventory of excess school buildings.’’

It also asked that CPS provide a list of all proposed school actions, and “transparently describe’’ the research and formulas used to create the list.

Last month, teachers were on strike for seven days.

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