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Chicago Teachers Approve New Contract

At long last, it's over.

Chicago Teachers Union members ratified a new contract by a vote of more than 79 percent in favor, which the union is touting as the highest approval rate ever for a contract.

About 25,000 teachers took to the picket lines for seven days last month. The action affected some 350,000 students and pushed tension over education reform ideas, including teacher evaluation, "mutual consent" hiring, and school closing into the national spotlight.

Many pundits have weighed in about which side came out on top here, but here's one element that hasn't been much discussed: The union successfully pushed to make this a three-year agreement rather than the four years the district had wanted. Three years would put the next round of contract negotiations right smack in the middle of Chicago's mayoral campaign season. It's hard not to see that as additional leverage for the union to use.

It's still unclear how the $295 million agreement will be paid for.

All of our strike coverage, including our on-the-ground reporting from Chicago, can be found here.

Here's Education Week's rundown of what's in the approved agreement:

Pay Increases
• Teachers will receive a 3 percent salary increase in the first year of the contract and 2 percent in both years two and three. If the parties agree to extend the contract for a fourth year, raises will be 3 percent.
• A provision allowing the district to deny raises for fiscal reasons was deleted.

Differentiated Pay

• No specific provisions for merit pay or career ladders are included. A joint union-district committee is to be established to explore differentiated-pay options.

'Steps' and 'Lanes'
• Premiums for advanced degrees and experience are retained. Those for experience will be weighted more heavily toward senior teachers.

Teacher Evaluation

• Measures of student academic growth will top out at 30 percent of each teacher's evaluation rating—the amount specified in state law.
• During 2012-13, tenured teachers cannot be subject to "adverse action" based on their ratings.
• A joint union-management committee will pilot the use of student surveys as part of the evaluation system and recommend whether to incorporate them.
• Teachers who receive a "developing" rating—the second-lowest mark—will be moved to an "unsatisfactory" rating after two years unless they improve by at least one point on a zero-to-400 scale.
• Tenured teachers with "proficient" or higher scores will be rated every two years.
• Teachers receiving an "unsatisfactory" rating may appeal their scores.

Layoffs and Recalls
• When a school must cut positions, teachers rated "unsatisfactory" will be dismissed first, followed by probationary teachers.
• When schools are closed or consolidated, teachers will follow their students if positions are open at the receiving school.
• As part of a new hiring mechanism, displaced or laid-off tenured teachers with a "proficient" or higher rating will join new applicants on a hiring list. Principals must interview candidates for open positions from that list, including at least three tenured teachers, but will have the final say over hiring. However, the board of education must try to staff 50 percent of open positions with laid-off teachers. Tenured teachers not selected for rehire must be given a reason why.
• Laid-off teachers will receive up to 5 months of pay while in a reassignment pool, followed by 5 months of reduced pay in a pool of long-term substitutes.

Class Size
• An additional $500,000 is provided to aid a joint committee in investigating and resolving overcrowding. District policy caps the size of most classes at 28 to 31 students.

Benefits

• Health-insurance-contribution rates are frozen, but all employees must join a "wellness" initiative.
• Payouts for sick leave are canceled going forward, though sick days can be put toward medical or family leave.
• An enhanced pension program and payout for unused personal days are eliminated.

School Day and Year

• The school day will be extended by an hour and 15 minutes for elementary school students and by 30 minutes for high school students.
• Ten days will be added to the school year, for a total of 175 full and 6 half-days.

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