Depending on whom you listen to the tentative contract the Chicago Teachers Union accepted Tuesday will benefit teachers, school administrators and most importantly students.
According to Chicago Public Schools, teachers will get a 3 percent raise this school year and 2 percent raises for the next two years. If the school district and Chicago Teachers Union elect to extend the contract to a fourth, optional year, teachers would get a 3 percent raise.
Although Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said pay was never a sticking issue during negotiations.
“We did not want teachers being evaluated based on how well their students performed on tests because we know that there are other issues that effects a child’s school performance that is beyond a teacher’s control,” said Lewis. “There are children who are homeless; live in economically depressed communities where they are exposed to violence and drugs; children who do not eat properly at home; children who are abused and have psychological issues. These are all things that a teacher cannot control but is held accountable for and that is not fair.”
Also included in the tentative contract, according to CPS, is maintaining current class size policy, not raising healthcare premiums and the elimination of sick leave payout without penalizing existing banks. Previously, employees could accumulate up to 325 days for payout and pension service credit after 20 years of service.
But one thing not mentioned in CPS’ contract summary is a new provision negotiated by the CTU that teachers would be reimbursed for school supplies up to $250 and that textbooks would now be available on the first day.
Jean-Claude Brizard, chief executive officer for Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third largest school district with 675 schools and 402,000 students, who are predominately Hispanic, said he is happy to see students back in school.
“Our students [are] back with their teachers where they belong,” said Brizard. “There, they will continue their learning with the full school day, using more time for reading, math, science, world languages and enrichment such as arts, music and physical education.”
And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who on Monday instructed city attorneys to file an injunction in Cook County Circuit Court to force teachers back to work, added everyone gave a little to end the strike.
“This settlement is an honest compromise. It means returning our schools to their primary purpose: the education of our children,” the mayor said. Emanuel said. “In this contract, we gave our children a seat at the table. In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less, and our kids are getting more.”
The mayor’s three small children do not attend CPS. Instead they attend the University of Chicago Lab School on the South Side at a cost of $17, 500 per child. This is the same school President Barack Obama sent his two daughters to prior to being elected the nation’s first black president in 2008.
CPS teachers, on average lost $295 a day while on strike, according to CPS. And while parents said teachers were inconvenience, so were they.
Iesha Davis is use to running errands and working out at the health club while her kids are in school.
But during the seven-day teachers’ strike she was forced to take her two, small children with her to run errands and was not able to do her normal workouts.
“It was a big inconvenience to me because when my kids are in school that is my time to do whatever it is I need to do,” said Davis, 28. “Whether it’s laundry, grocery shopping or getting my hair and nails done.”
The single mom, whose sons are in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten at Martha Ruggles Elementary School on the South Side, added that if there were a charter school close to her home she would transfer her kids there.
“Gas is expensive and I am not working right now so I cannot afford to drive them far to a charter school,” she explained. “But if there were one in walking distance I would surely look into sending them there. This way if another strike occurs my kids won’t be affected.”
Students attending charter schools were not affected by the teachers’ strike because charter teachers are not members of the Chicago Teachers Union, which represents more than 25,000 teachers working at traditional public schools.
Davis McFarland, a 67 year-old grandfather whose granddaughter is in the third grade at John Calhoun North Elementary School on the West Side, said parents were not the only ones inconvenienced by the recent teachers’ strike.
“I retired five years ago and was enjoying retirement until the strike occurred. My daughter is a single parent and works two jobs and needed my help,” McFarland said. “So instead of playing my normal Friday golf game last week I was babysitting my nine year-old grand daughter. And let me tell you, when you get my age watching a nine year-old is rough.”
One parent missed out on a job opportunity because of the strike.
“I had a job interview last week (Sept. 12) but had to cancel it because I had no one to watch my 7 year-old son,” said Cynthia Bass, 31, a single parent working part-time. “ I was laid off in 2009 and have been struggling looking for full-time employment since. This job interview would have been for a full-time position that would have allowed me to quit my part-time, cashier job at McDonald’s. I asked if I could reschedule the interview and they said they would call me back to do so. I am still waiting.”