Last week bargaining teams from the Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union reached an agreement on broad terms of a contract that could end the strike. The agreement hit a snag over the weekend when the union’s Board of Delegates voted to extend the strike until at least Wednesday, in order to give themselves time to review the deal and consult with members. In effect, the tentative agreement remains on the table, awaiting a final decision from CTU delegates.
In the meantime, the Mayor is expected to pursue a court injunction against the union on the basis that the strike is illegal and presents a danger to public health and safety.
The following is a synopsis of the contract terms, based on documents provided by the CTU.
The contract covers at least three years, with across-the-board pay increases of three percent in the current school year and two percent in the second and third years. The parties may extend the contract to a fourth year by mutual agreement, with a three percent pay hike that year.
The contract maintains the current salary schedule, in which pay is determined entirely by a teacher’s seniority and what academic degrees a teacher has. As a teacher gains seniority he or she moves up “steps” on the salary schedule. A teacher can also move to a better “lane” by receiving a more advanced college degree. (The current lanes are for teachers with a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, or a Master’s degree plus 15 hours of additional graduate courses.) The new salary schedule will provide further pay increases to teachers on the highest three “steps” in each lane, that is, those with the most seniority.
There is no provision for merit pay in the tentative agreement.
COMMENT: Chicago Public Schools are in serious economic distress. Reserve funds are likely to be exhausted by the end of the school year and a “pension holiday” is slated to run out during the 2013-14 school year. When the “holiday” ends Chicago Public Schools will be obligated to resume regular payments into the pension fund, resulting in a deficit of up to $1 billion that year. It is doubtful that significant raises can be paid without teacher layoffs.
WORK SCHEDULES AND CALENDARS
The teacher workday is expanded from six hours 45 minutes in elementary schools to seven hours. In middle schools a standard work day will also last seven hours, with a 45-minute lunch period. In high schools the school day is extended from 406 minutes to 435 minutes. As was the case under the prior agreement, a high school teacher may be assigned to teach as many as five classes in a day, but the length of a class period is lengthened from 45 to 50 minutes.
The calendar will now include 175 full student attendance days. There are also half-days, professional development days (with no students), and report-card pickup days adding up to the equivalent of 15 working days, for a total work year of 190 days. School will be extended to make up for days lost due to the strike. All schools should follow a single unified schedule, as opposed to the current situation in which some schools follow separate calendars.
TEACHER RECALL AND HIRING
The district will hire 512 specialty teachers for music, art, and physical education classes.
Half of all hires must be made from currently displaced CTU members (that is, teachers who have been laid-off) and a teacher must be recalled if there is an opening at his or her old school during the ten months following the layoff. Teachers are also to “follow their students” to a new building if their current school is closed down.
COMMENT: For the reasons given above, layoffs are more likely than recalls over the long term.EVALUATIONS
The student performance portion of teacher evaluation is set at the state minimum of 30 percent. A more subjective “teacher practice” component makes up the remaining 70 percent of the evaluation. The final overall rating can range from 100 (worst) to 400 (best). In this range teachers can receive a grade of Excellent (340-400), Proficient (285-39), Developing (210-284), or Unsatisfactory (100-209). A poor evaluation will not be used against a teacher during the first year of the contract.
After the first year, however, teachers who are rated “Developing” or “Unsatisfactory are not eligible for automatic recall.
The contract provides that a teacher whose overall rating is “Developing” for two consecutive years can be treated as “Unsatisfactory” if his or her overall ratings and his or her teacher practice ratings decline further in the second year. A teacher with an “Unsatisfactory” rating is subject to loss of tenure and dismissal.
A teacher can appeal a poor rating to a review board made up of union and administration representatives.
COMMENT: The rules covering “Developing” and “Unsatisfactory” ratings create a large loophole that may limit the effectiveness of the ratings process. In Chicago this “Needs Improvement” rating will be called “Developing” instead. Aside from the semantic change, the rules allows teachers to avoid being treated as unsatisfactory as long as either their overall score or their “teacher practice” score is no worse in the second year than in the first. Given the subjective nature of the teacher practice component, the possibility exists that these scores can be manipulated to minimize the risk that poor performing teachers will be dismissed. CTU may also attempt to use the appeal process to further manipulate evaluation scores and water evaluations down.
The contract creates a mediation and arbitration process for teacher discipline issues.
The district cannot put teacher on unpaid suspension.
Union officials will receive time off during the school day to investigate grievances.