CHICAGO, Oct. 8 (UPI) — Contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel‘s administration have reached the final weekend before a threatened teacher strike.
The union has threatened to strike beginning Tuesday if a deal providing “an entire contract package” including raises for teachers, enforced limits on class sizes and more funding for classrooms is not reached during contract talks over the three-day Columbus Day weekend, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“What that means to us is we want no cuts to our pay and benefits,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said. “We want adequate staffing and revenue so that we can have at least $500 more per student in order to accommodate the needs of our children. And we think it’s OK to ask for some job security along with that.”
The school district has proposed a four-year contract that would offer an 8.75 percent cost-of-living increase and an average 1.8 percent annual increase based on experience and education, but would also look to phase out the district’s 7 percent annual salary contribution to teachers’ pensions, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Union officials believe teachers would lose money in the district’s deal and instead seek a three-year contract that maintains the pension contribution and offers 2 percent raises in the second and third year.
The teachers union has also requested that Mayor Emanuel support the use of the city’s tax increment financing fund to pay for school needs.
The looming strike would leave about 300,000 students without teachers for an undetermined amount of time.
The school district plans to keep schools open during the strike and continue providing free breakfast and lunch to students as central office staff would assist with online learning, physical education and arts activities.
Capable families have been encouraged to make other arrangements for their children, but the district remained hopeful a deal can be reached in the allotted time.
“A strike can be averted, because we can all agree that teachers deserve a raise, which is why we are offering teachers a healthy net raise for all their hard work,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said.
Teachers have worked under an expired contract for nearly 500 days, Lewis provided provided optimism, but no concrete details about the direction of the negotiations during a press conference on Friday.
“We will continue to negotiate through the weekend and Columbus Day, hoping we can secure an agreement before Tuesday,” she said. “But there is movement, I think people are listening. We’re throwing out ideas about how to land this.”