Thousands of Chicago teachers marched through the Loop Wednesday afternoon, in a show of unity over contract negotiations with the city’s school district.
CPS, which says it faces a $700 million deficit, is offering the teachers a first-year salary increase of 2 percent. It’s followed by a merit pay system in coming years that would award high-performing teachers, those who teach subjects such as math or science, and teachers who work in dangerous neighborhoods.
The union initially asked for a compounded 30-percent salary increase over two years. The union says that would compensate teachers for having to work a longer school day and a more rigorous curriculum next year, mandated by the city.
Teachers say they would not be taking a strike authorization vote at their rally Wednesday, but instead want a show of solidarity against contract proposals from the CPS board.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey says the union continues to have issues with class size, staffing and resources for a longer day. They also want more compensation and better job security.
Sharkey says while contract talks between teachers and Board of Education have been productive, he believes there are political forces at work, namely Mayor Rahm Emanuel preventing them from getting the deal done. "When we see the city of Chicago talk about six or seven hundred million dollars worth of deficit next year, we say how are you going to have a longer day?” said Sharkey.
"The Chicago teachers deserve a pay raise. They work very hard. They deserve a pay raise. Chicago school children do not deserve a strike," Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters today during an appearance at Senn High School. "We are working with an independent arbitrator to ensure that we achieve both of those goals."
Right now, as required by the education reform law, a three-member panel is reviewing the offers from both sides. That report is expected sometime in July.