Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Four-year deal and revamped pensions prevent Chicago teachers strike - MarketWatch

Four-year deal and revamped pensions prevent Chicago teachers strike - MarketWatch:

Four-year deal and revamped pensions prevent Chicago teachers strike

New teachers will be required to contribute 9.4% of their salaries to their retirement account

Striking Chicago public school teachers march down Michigan Avenue in 2012 in Chicago, the last time the union representing the nation’s third-largest district approved a work stoppage. Another strike was averted with a contract agreement this week.

Sleepy children and parents returned to their morning school routine Tuesday after a last-minute deal just before midnight averted the second Chicago teachers strike in four years.
Chicago Public Schools officials and leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract to keep open the nation’s third-largest school district, serving nearly 380,000 students.
The four-year deal — retroactive to the 2015-16 school year when teachers worked without a contract — phases out the “pension pickup,” for newly hired teachers, according to the tentative agreement. New teachers will be required to contribute 9.4% of their salaries to their retirement account. In return, teachers hired after Jan. 1 will get two raises of 3.5% — one effective in January and the other effective in July.
With the new contract, the district will continue to pay approximately 7% toward the pensions of existing employees, who will continue contributing 2% to their own retirement accounts, union officials said.
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“This is not a perfect agreement,” said CTU president Karen Lewis, who previously mulled a run for mayor of Chicago. “But it is good for the kids. And good for the clinicians. And good for the teachers, and the paraprofessionals.” The deal must be ratified by the union’s House of Delegates; they represent the 22,000 teachers who are union members.
The deal offered by CPS negotiators late Monday was “significantly better” than what the district offered teachers in January, Lewis said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the agreement ensured that “teachers’ hard work would be respected in this contract and appropriately rewarded.” In addition, the deal would put the school district’s finances “on firmer ground,” he said, according to DNAInfo.
The deal also maintains the teacher-loved “steps and lanes,” automatic bumps in pay that track seniority and experience.
On average, CPS teachers make less than those in New York and L.A. The average teacher salary in Chicago just tops $74,000, according to CPS data (the CTU has said that number overstates salaries). By comparison, Los Angeles teachers collect an average just above $75,000 and New York, just above $80,000. A CPS teacher with a doctorate and 19 years’ experience will have reached the cap at $113,000, under the step-and-lane rules, Crains Chicago Business notes. Teachers also routinely fund supplies and equipment in their rooms due to what have become perennial budget reductions in Chicago.
Contract issues of course aren’t exclusive to Chicago. Philadelphia’s school district iscurrently in a budget stalemate and losing some fleeing teachers.
Emanuel has been challenged with broader pension challenges and budget issues. CPS faced a $1.1 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that started July 1. Contentious issues, such as the funding of charter schools as the district loses enrollment, continue. CPS bonds, as well as some of Chicago’s city’s bonds, carry a “junk” rating at some credit rating agencies and the state of Illinois bonds are the lowest-rated in the nation outside of Puerto Rico. CPS faced criticism earlier this year when it sold bonds at high interest rates essentially to keep the lights on.
A mayor’s office spokesman told public radio station WBEZ that the teachers’ union deal was being financed by $175 million surplus from the city’s Tax Increment Financing district funds, with $88 million going to CPS. Education advocate groups had lobbied city hall to free up these funds, coveted by local officials, as a short-term fix. These groups maintain that the funding formulas underlining Chicago and Illinois, which funds education based on property taxes, needs reworking.
The union had said earlier Monday that it was holding out for a $500 increase in funding per student. That would cost an additional $200 million and would require the city to dip into TIF funds.
Teachers had maintained that their threat of strike extended beyond their own contract to include fairer funding for children, which by itself is not grounds for withholding labor.
In 2012, teachers walked the picket line for seven days before coming to an agreement. Prior to that, there had been 10 strikes between 1969 and 1987.Four-year deal and revamped pensions prevent Chicago teachers strike - MarketWatch:

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