Negotiations over a new labor contract between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district have stalled, according the union's president.
CTU's contract with the school district expires June 30, and just earlier this week CTU President Karent Lewis had said an agreement was close to being reached.
But at a Thursday press conference, Lewis said, "As of right now, talks have broken off."
"We thought we could get something done today," she said. "Instead of making a deal with us, they've made threats."
Lewis added that the school district's "bargaining rhetoric is as empty as their bank accounts."
According to the labor leader, the cash-strapped school district has proposed $200 million in spending reductions that would translate into the loss of 3,000 positions.
The union has reportedly steered away from requesting a pay raise but is standing firm on teacher evaluation issues and other matters that would not impact the district financially.
"CPS refuses to budge on our contract proposals that will have no cost impact on the district," the CTU president said.
UPDATE (5:40 p.m.): In a statement on the stalled contract talks between CTU and the school district, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "We are encouraged that both sides finally acknowledge that CPS is in a fiscal crisis and lacks the resources to provide additional compensation, and that is a step in the right direction."
"We urge CTU leadership to come back to the bargaining table," the mayor added. "After years of our academic gains, now is not the time to shortchange our children by eliminating evaluations for tens of thousands of employees or lowering teachers' performance standards."
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey had this to say in response to the mayor's comments:
The mayor's statement is outrageous with no basis in fact. Teachers and other school employees have never asked for less accountability or the elimination of evaluation. He is highly misinformed. His comment is designed to cover up his role in running the school district into the ground. The mayor is the one who made the appointments of people who have made poor fiscal decisions that have led to lowered bond ratings and billion dollar deficits. The mayor added 20 percent to the school day and school year at the same time he's trying to cut 20 percent out of school budget. The mayor's handpicked board has increased spending on things that have nothing to do with education
The teachers union made a proposal to address an inconsistency in the teacher evaluation system whereby educators with "proficient" observations could never-the-less be given a 'developing' rating and therefore moved to the front of the layoff line. It is simply untrue that we proposed eliminating evaluations for tens of thousands of employees.
We hope this statement from the mayor does not signal he's removed his fuzzy sweater and is back to his old ways of trying to bully public school teachers into an agreement that does nothing to help school children. Apparently, he's lost his cool. The mayor is trying to shirk responsibility as the sole power who appointed the people responsible for the district financial problems.