The Chicago school board has postponed voting on the district’s $5.73 billion budget for next school year until an agreement is reached on a new teachers’ contract, said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. The vote was to have been on Wednesday.
The proposed budget, which would raise taxes and drain the district’s cash reserves to close a projected $665 million deficit, includes just a 2 percent salary bump for teachers, who are threatening to strike if CPS does not sweeten the offer.
As contract talks move into their ninth month, teachers are asking for double-digit raises in exchange for working a longer school day next year, as well as other provisions: improved benefits, a recall system for veteran teachers who’ve been laid off, and a greater say in how the new school day will be implemented.
CPS officials say they’ve exhausted their resources just to close the budget gap and can’t afford to pay teachers more than the 2 percent they’ve offered. The standoff has pushed the two sides to the brink of a teachers’ strike that could delay the start of the school year. An independent arbitrator recently recommended that CPS teachers should see their salaries increase between 15 and 20 percent next year for working a 20 percent longer day. Both CPS and the union rejected that recommendation.Whether teachers ultimately get the raises they say they are owed, CPS’ financial picture is dire. The district in recent years has gutted after-school programs, closed schools, slashed central office payroll, laid off hundreds of teachers and raised taxes to the cap limit, all in an effort to get its finances in order.
It has made little difference. In a scathing rebuke of the district’s proposed budget for 2012-13, The Civic Federation put CPS’ long-term debt at $1.1 billion and said it faces a $1 billion deficit in 2014, no matter what officials do this year to close the current shortfall.