Newly-seated Chicago School Board members ruled Wednesday that the cash-strapped CPS system does not have the $100 million it would cost to cover promised 4 percent raises for teachers and other union workers.
The unanimous decision to stop the raises from going into effect came after board members were told that nearly three-quarters of the system’s teachers will still get other raises based on length of service and educational advancement — at a cost to the district of $35 million.
The decision came during a “special meeting” called to determine if the district had enough money to fund the scheduled 4 percent raises to teachers and seven other bargaining units representing building engineers and other support staff. Under the contract, the board can reject contractual raises if it determines the system does not have the funds to pay for them.
Even without the 4 percent pay hikes, the raises most teachers will receive could range between 3 and 5 percent for those with less than 13 years in the system, and 1 percent for those with more experience, officials said.
Pleading poverty, the newly-seated Chicago Board of Education voted Wednesday to rescind a scheduled 4 percent raise for Chicago Public Schools teachers that would have cost almost $100 million.
The board’s unanimous decision came after it revealed that the CPS budget deficit — which it said is now $712 million — includes millions of dollars in previously undisclosed costs.
The yearly raises are part of the Chicago Teachers Union contract, which is in its final year, but they are only enacted if the board agrees the district can afford them. The raises have been approved each year since the current contract began in 2007.
Board president David Vitale said teacher layoffs could still occur despite the vote. The CTU and other unions whose contractual raises were affected have until 11:59 p.m. Monday to ask to re-open part of their contracts in order to negotiate around the raises.
Facing an estimated $712 million deficit, the new Chicago Board of Education cried uncle on Wednesday, voting for the first time in 20 years not to fund promised raises.
Now it’s time for Chicago teachers to stand up and accept reality.
Chicago teachers and the seven unions representing other school employee unions should accept the wage freeze or, at a minimum, try to negotiate less than the promised 4 percent raise.
Holding on to the pipe dream of getting that 4 percent raise — and risking a summer of uncertainty and a possible strike at the end — does no one, least of all Chicago students, any good.
The Board of Education simply has no more rabbits to pull from its budget hat.
We say that cautiously, knowing that CPS said much the same last year as it tried to persuade teachers to forgo their raise. And then, voila, CPS managed to fill its deficit without increasing class size or scaling back programs significantly.