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Cleveland Teachers, School Board Reject Contract

In a close vote, members of the Cleveland Teachers Union have rejected a new three-year contract by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. That deal, brokered by unions' leaders and the Cleveland school district, would have completely overhauled the district's three-year-old merit pay system, under which only teachers who scored satisfactory marks on teacher evaluations got raises. The union's move sends negotiators back to the bargaining table.

Following the teachers' vote, the city's school board voted to reject the contract as well. It was a symbolic vote, as the teachers had already effectively scuttled the deal, but district CEO Eric Gordon requested the vote, The Plain Dealer reports, as "a measure of respect for what we heard from members (teachers)."

Among the union members' objections to the contract, according to the newspaper, were that it didn't restrict the number of standardized tests administered to students or roll back  the district's test-score heavy teacher-evaluation system.

On the issue of increased pay, teachers are hoping for success at the ballot box next month in a vote over whether to renew a city tax levy that annually injects $65 million into the district's budget. Over the weekend, the editorial boards of Crain's Cleveland Business and The Plain Dealer came out in support of the tax.

The Plain Dealer's editorial board also had some advice for the district and the teachers union for the next round of negotiations:

"[T]he resumed teacher contract talks must succeed," they wrote. "A teachers' strike would be the kiss of death for a levy needed by the district and teachers alike. Both sides should seek to settle this dispute, calmly and peacefully."

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