The clock continues to tick down for Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, whose old contract will expire over the weekend, to find a solution before the 2012-2013 school year begins.
The old contract, negotiated back in 2007, will expire on Saturday along with the collective bargaining rights for more than 25,000 teachers. Meanwhile, CPS and CTU have been trying to negotiate a new contract for nearly eight months.
“It is our responsibility to work toward a contract that is fair and equitable to our members and one that will help us give our students the high-quality, first-class education they deserve,” said CTU President Karen Lewis said on Friday about efforts to replace the soon-to-be-expired contract. “While there has been progress in some areas, we remain far apart on many others.”
The new contract, sent to arbitration weeks ago, is under review by independent panel. The three-member panel will release recommendations for a compromise on July 16. CPS and CTU then have 15 days to accept or reject the recommendations.
The hot topic during contract talks has been how to compensate teachers for longer school days. CPS suggested a two percent raise along with a possible new pay system designed to award high-performing teachers and those who teach hard-to-staff subjects such as math and science. CTU balked and pushed their proposal for a 29-percent increase.
Tensions continue to run high between the groups during the wait for arbitration to release their recommendations.
Earlier this month, nearly 90 percent of CTU members voted to authorize a strike if the unions feels it is necessary after arbitration releases the recommendations.
"While the Union has made no determination on whether a strike will be needed, leaders say the authorization vote has now given them added leverage at the bargaining table," spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a statement.
Disappointed that CTU did not wait for the arbitrator, CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard pleaded with CTU for common ground.
"We're working very hard to avoid a strike. Our kids can't afford it. ... We can't afford a 29 percent increase in salary," said Brizard. "Somewhere in there is the right number. We're going to come to that resolution."
The last strike was more than 20 years ago.