Board members say Chicago Public Schools, which faces a $700 million deficit, can no longer afford to pay teachers more. The Chicago Teachers Union has until Monday to decide if they will accept the decision or reopen negotiations.
In their first major act, Rahm Emanuel's newly-appointed school board voted to take away a 4-percent raise for all Chicago Public Schools teachers.
"The city did not get into this financial mess by overpaying teachers, paraprofessionals, engineers and lunchroom ladies," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said.
Chicago Public Schools' financial mess is a $712 million budget deficit that needs to be balanced by August.
"From our standpoint, I think it was fairly straightforward that we could not at this juncture reasonably tell them we could pay this 4% increase and not impact the education of our children," David Vitale, Chicago School Board president said.
Mayor Emanuel praises the decision. He said, "It is the hard truth of the financial situation and tough choices to protect our kids in the classroom."
CPS staffers said that even without a 4-percent pay raise, about 75 percent of CPS teachers will receive raises anyway for years of service and or for advanced education levels. In addition, CPS claims teacher starting salaries are more than their peers in any of the country's 10 largest cities.
Union president Karen Lewis calls those numbers ridiculous.
"CPS ranks 71st in salary for high school teachers, and 38 for elementary teachers in this state," Lewis said. She left before the board voted. "I think it's going to be interesting, what this new board does and how they want to start their relationship with us."
Lewis said she will ask her members what to do about the contract.
The average CPS teacher salary is $69,000 a year.
For two years, staffers at CPS's central office have gone without raises. Also, principals and assistant principals have not had their salaries increased this year.