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Mayor Rahm Emanuel Dodges Third Teachers Strike Under His Tenure

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The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) agreed to a tentative contract with Chicago Public Schools minutes before a midnight deadline that would have sent teachers on strike for a third time under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure.

The Chicago Cubs were not the only ones from the Windy City playing hardball late into the night Monday, as the CTU and CPS school board spent 12 hours Monday hashing out a new contract, and finishing at the eleventh hour. The four-year deal still needs to be ratified by CTU’s House of Delegates and voted on by the members, but the tentative agreement assured students that classes would continue Tuesday morning.

“What I will tell you is that it wasn’t easy, as you all know,” CTU president Karen Lewis told reporters after the two sides reached the tentative agreement, according to the Chicago Tribune. Lewis said that there are still some things to be worked on, but that the deal is something that’s, “good for kids, is good for clinicians, is good for paraprofessionals, for teachers, for the community.”(RELATED: Chicago Teachers On The Brink Of Leaving 400,000 Students At Home)

Mayor Emanuel, along with CPS chief Forrest Claypool and school board president Frank Clark hosted a news conference from city hall just after midnight. The Mayor said that Chicago Public Schools would be on “stronger, firmer ground” as a result of the agreement, and asserted that the school board and the union worked “in good faith to reach a deal.”

Mayor Emanuel spoke Tuesday morning during a budget address, reiterating that “Chicago’s students are in class where they belong today, getting the education they deserve.” The agreement came just weeks after the CTU voted to strike if no deal was reached by Oct. 10. (RELATED: Chicago Teachers Union Authorizes Strike)

The teachers threatened to strike over changes in wages, budget cuts and proposed layoffs. Chicago school cut nearly 1,000 teachers and support staff in Jan. of this year; citing low enrollment. The district just cut another 250 positions last week, a move that escalated tensions as the Monday night strike deadline loomed.

During negotiations, the teachers demanded that the city divert about $200 million from a surplus development account, and use those funds for schools. The city compromised, allocating $88 million for schools from that account. The district also promised to contribute $7 million to support staff at the schools.

The new agreement will phase out the historic practice of contributing to teachers pensions. Under the tentative agreement, teachers who are CTU members hired before Dec. 31, 2016 will keep the pension “pickup” but new hires will be required to contribute 9.4% of their salaries to their retirement accounts. To make up for the phased out “pension pickup,” teacher hired after Dec. 31, 2016 will receive two 3.5 percent wage increases in 2017, according to Marketwatch.

Nearly 400,000 students are taught by close to 22,000 teachers at Chicago’s 660 Public Schools, according to their internal figures. The teachers have not had a working contract since June 30, 2015, when the contract that was negotiated after the 2012 strike expired.

The teachers and the school board averted the strike, which would have been the third under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The union went on strike for ten days in 2012, and then picketed for one day earlier this year over budget cuts.

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