The Chicago Public Schools has opted against extending the Chicago Teachers Union contract for one year. The school district informed union leaders that they would not take advantage of the option to offer a one-year extension of their current contract via a letter sent Thursday.
"Our financial challenges are well known, and while the Board of Education recognizes that CPS teachers and staff have worked extremely hard during the last three years and our students have achieved great academic success as a result of these efforts, the Board unfortunately cannot extend this contract," CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz wrote in the letter to the teachers' union President Karen Lewis.
"In the coming weeks, we hope to work with you on the most pressing fiscal issue facing CPS -- the continued inequity in pension funding. CPS students and Chicago taxpayers continue to carry the burden of this inequity, and it has come at a great cost," Ruiz added, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Ruiz, who is interim CEO after Barbara Byrd-Bennett took a leave of absence amid the SUPES contract scandal, said the district, which is facing a $1.1 billion budget shortfall, cannot afford the $105 million in raises that would come from extending the current contract. He added that the district would like the union to help in the push for pension reform in Springfield.
The union, which would have reportedly declined the contract extension, if offered, has been meeting with the board regarding their contract. CTU leaders say issues like improved working conditions and protections against layoffs and mass school closings are of top concern for their upcoming contract.
UPDATE 1 (6:01 p.m.): CTU's Lewis has released the following statement in response to the district's decision not to extend the contract for one year:
It would have behooved the Board to offer a fourth year of the contract, because in light of recent events, that's a group that needs as much good news as possible right now. But the decision today sends our members a clear message about how teachers, counselors, clinicians and education support personnel are viewed by the leadership of this district. By refusing to offer a 3 percent raise, the Board is clearly letting educators know that it doesn't place even a modicum of value on the work done in schools every day for the children and families of the city of Chicago.
As for this figure of $100 million that is cited for the potential overall cost of an increase, let's consider how much of that could have been saved if it weren't for the Board's own incompetence. $20 million for the SUPES contract that has them mired in scandal, plus another $22 million for a janitorial contact that has them over budget--a contract, by the way, that is literally and figuratively a mess in our schools. That's $42 million that could have been saved, just for starters. A closer examination of Board contracts would no doubt reveal even more potential savings and resources that could go back into our schools.
CPS can repeat the mantra of a $1 billion budget deficit until its blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that this is a financial mess of its own creation. If the district is indeed broke, it's broke on purpose, and our members and their primary interests--their students--are the ones who are suffering the consequences.