CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union summarily rejected the recommendations of an independent report published Saturday, making a teacher strike all but inevitable this year.
The report, jointly commissioned by district officials and union leaders, drew up a contract similar to what Chicago Public Schools bargainers offered in January. The union unanimously rejected that proposal.
Echoing a news release published on the union's blog Saturday, spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin told teachers to dig in for a "zombie budget apocalypse" brought on by district-imposed cuts.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, meanwhile, announced his acceptance of the third-party recommendations Saturday, urging union officials to do the same.
The report was "based on a reasonable deal that included many compromises from both sides," Claypool said, according to a CPS news release. "This report should not be the precursor to a strike — it must be the precursor to a final agreement."
Claypool went on to acknowledge the district's "deteriorating finances," but laid the bulk of the budget crisis at the feet of state lawmakers. Springfield's inability to pass a 2016 budget left a $480 million gap in CPS's revenue stream, and Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed 2017 budget would siphon another $74.4 million from the district.
Still, union president Karen Lewis said, the recommended contract fell short of several of the union's hard lines.
Her team had demanded caps on class sizes and a moratorium on charter expansions, she explained in a video posted Saturday. Union leaders also refused the proposal's so-called "pension pickup," which would have them pay more into their own retirement funds.
The union has given a 30-day strike notice and "the countdown has started," officials said. It's unclear whether that strike would come before the end of the school year or hold off until the fall.
CPS officials denied rumors Friday that budgetary restraints would force them to shave days off the end of the school year. But in the event of a strike, Claypool said, all bets are off.
"Rather than start the clock for a strike that would cost our children precious days of school at the end of the year," he said, "I would urge that the CTU uses the remaining time on the clock to join us and concentrate on reaching a final deal so that Chicago’s children can continue their extraordinary academic progress."
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