Chicago Board, Teachers Agree on 3-Year Contract

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After nearly 11 months of negotiations, the Chicago Teachers' Union and the Chicago Board of Education have reached tentative agreement on an unprecedented three-year contract that will give teachers raises totaling 20.7 percent.

However, Gov. James R. Thompson of Illinois has vetoed portions of a bill that would permit the district to pay for the contract with $66 million in local tax money that would otherwise have gone to the teachers' pension fund and a capital-improvement fund.

While the Governor's veto did not affect the provisions of the bill necessary for paying for the teachers' contract, it throws into doubt whether state legislators will support the measure as amended. The legislature reconvenes in November.

The vetoed portions of the bill would have shifted responsibility for the Chicago teachers' pension fund to the state and provided all teachers in Illinois with the option of retiring at age 55 with 30 years of service. They were included in the measure in an attempt to garner statewide support for the bill, but Mr. Thompson said the provisions would "burden the state financially."

The tentative contract, scheduled to be voted on by the union membership on Sept. 14, calls for Chicago teachers to receive their first-year raises on Nov. 5. District officials said last week that the schedule gives the legislature enough time to pass the bill.

Richard Guidice, the assistant superintendent for government relations, said he does not anticipate opposition to the amended bill.

"It's all local money," he said, "so as long as our local legislators are in support, and they are, there's no reason we wouldn't be able to divert our own money."

Union officials said the agreement on a three-year contract, the first in the city's history, marks a new era of labor-management cooperation ino, which has seen repeateds over the past 20 years.

The negotiations were conducted by the president and vice president of the interim board of education, rather than by staff members, noted Pamelyn Massarsky, recording secretary of the C.T.U. and a member of the union's negotiating team. And for the first time, the talks were held at the union's headquarters.

"The old traditional barriers were broken down," Ms. Massarsky said. "Like-minded people with similar objectives in mind worked together to accomplish a goal."

The agreement, which will increase starting teachers' salaries to $24,000 a year, adds two more "lanes" to the salary schedule to encourage veteran teachers to go back to school for more credits, Ms. Massarsky said.

Teachers who choose to do so will be paid bonuses of $6,000 over five years, in addition to being paid more for the courses they have taken.

It also calls for the establishment of several union-school district commitincluding one to create a "peer professional advisory program" that will assign mentors to first-year teachers and experienced teachers who are not performing well.

Other committees will develop programs for intern teachers, determine incentives for encouraging teachers' assistants to become teachers, and suggest ways to reduce class size.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Ted D. Kimbrough has modified a proposal to shift approximately 150 central-office administrators to "service centers" in the city's 11 subdistricts following protests from members of the city's local school councils.

Although Mr. Kimbrough said his service-center plan would bring the district's resources closer to the schools, the reform coalition Alliance for Better Chicago Schools denounced the proposal as an unwelcome bureaucratic intrusion that failed to take the schools' needs into account.

Instead, two subdistricts will be served by service centers, and schools in two other districts will be given money directly to use as they see fit. The two methods will be evaluated to determine which is more successful.

Vol. 10, Issue 1

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