Chicago Board of Education Votes to Approve $5.4 Billion Budget

The Chicago Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve a $5.4 billion budget that relies heavily on a series of property tax increases and borrowing for the financially struggling school district. 

The budget includes a 7 percent pension payment for teachers that would help pay for the district’s $300 million deficit. That pension pick-up was paid for by the city for more than 20 years. 

A report by watchdog group the Civic Federation criticized the new spending plan for relying on a large amount of borrowing, being filled with property tax increases and lacking long-term planning. A disability rights group also says it is concerned with the way the budget funds special education.

Just weeks ago, 1,000 CPS teachers received layoff notices heading into the new school year. Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union has told its members to prepare for a strike.

Teachers who weren't laid off are threatening to walk out like they did four years ago, especially if CPS demands the new contract will include phasing in the 7 percent pension payment now paid by the city.

"I want the teachers to be part of the solution, there's a pay raise in there for them," Mayor Emanuel said. "There are changes to also make sure they get a pension. It's their pension, they individually retire on it."

As for the timing of a strike, CTU president Karen Lewis said schools will open on time.

"I think we have to because we need to have conversations with our members," Lewis said. "We haven't haven't had them yet."

And even though teachers voted already and approved a strike, they may be asked to vote again.

Some are suggesting there won't be a strike until after September 16th, which is when teachers receive their first paycheck of the school year. Meanwhile, weekly negotiations continue between the union and the district.

CPS schools are set to open the day after Labor Day, on Tuesday September 6th.

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