CHICAGO — After nearly two weeks, more than 300,000 Chicago Public School students headed back to school Friday after a tentative agreement that ended the walkout and is expected to shape education in the nation's third-largest city for the next five years.
CPS and CTU reached a tentative contract agreement Thursday after a two-hour meeting at City Hall. CPS says the agreements laid out in the Chicago Teachers Union contract could cost $1.5 billion.
"We’re happy that we able to come to an agreement with our partners at CTU and make sure that our kids have a return to normalcy and to get back to what’s important," CPS CEO Janice Jackson said.
Teachers said they were pleased and relieved to be going back to work after their union and the city reached an agreement to settle an 11-day strike. They were satisfied with mayor's decision to allow five days to make up for time lost to the strike.
These are some of the highlights of the five-year deal:
- $380 million in teachers and support staff compensation – that includes the across-the-board raises for teachers and support staff and a reduction in health insurance co-pays.
- $70 million goes toward a full-time nurse and social worker for every school, more special education cases managers and positions to support English learners.
- $50 million is dedicated to address class size, community and sanctuary schools.
The conservative Illinois Policy Institute is out with an estimated price tag.
“The contract is very generous offer for Chicago teachers which is good but it definitely could cost Chicago taxpayers,” Amy Korte, director of research, said. “We estimate that if this contract were to be financed through property tax increases, it would be about $80 more in typical Chicago homeowners property tax bill.”
During the strike, Lightfoot repeatedly said she would protect taxpayers. On Friday, she said it’s her understanding that CPS has the ability to pay for the contract.
“My hope is that we’re going to pay for this with existing resources that are coming in,” Lightfoot said. “There was an intentionality about making sure that this contract was something that we could pay for which is why, candidly, it took as long as it did to resolve the strike.”
CPS must also come up with money to pay for strike. The mayor has authorized the district make up five of the 11 days kids were out of the classroom.
The IPI estimates that at $18 million per day for a total of $91 million.
"The mayor was definitely trying to keep costs somewhat down for Chicago taxpayers," Korte said.
CPS operates on a deficit borrowing to pay for operational costs. But the schools have various funding sources and many Lightfoot doesn’t expect a massive property tax hike to pay for the new contract.
The union's 25,000 members still must vote on the tentative agreement accepted by their 700 elected delegates late Wednesday night. Union officials haven't discussed a timeline for that process yet.
The strike began Oct. 17.