CHICAGO - Members of the Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly have approved a new three-year contract that includes pay increases and a new evaluation system, union officials announced late Wednesday.
Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said the contract was ratified by 79 percent of the union's membership. The contact was ratified by a vote Tuesday of 16,428 to 4,337. The contract now must be approved by the Chicago Board of Education, which is scheduled to meet later this month.
"This shows overwhelming recognition by our members that this contract represents a victory for students, communities and our profession," said CTU President Karen Lewis in a statement. "Our members are coming out of this with an even greater appreciation for the continued fight for public education. We thank our parents for standing with their children's teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians."
Teachers walked off the job Sept. 10, idling 350,000 students in the nation's third-largest school district for seven days before the union's delegates agreed to suspend the strike and return to classes, pending the outcome of Tuesday's vote.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called the settlement "an honest compromise" that "means a new day and a new direction for the Chicago public schools."
The contract includes 3 percent raises in its first year and 2 percent for two years after that, along with increases for experienced teachers. There also is an option of another 3 percent raise if teachers agree to a fourth year of the contract.
The school district also agreed to reduce the percentage of teachers' evaluations based on test scores, down from a proposed 45 percent to the 30 percent set as the minimum by state law. It also includes an appeals process to contest evaluations. The district will be required to give some preference to teachers who are displaced, and will maintain a pool of qualified teachers with the goal of filling half of all new positions with displaced teachers.
The walkout, the first for a major American city in at least six years, drew national attention because it posed a high-profile test for teachers unions, which have seen their political influence threatened by a growing reform movement. Unions have pushed back against efforts to expand charter schools, use private companies to help with failing schools and link teacher evaluations to student test scores.
The teachers walked out after months of tense contract talks that for a time appeared to be headed toward a peaceful resolution.
Emanuel and the union agreed in July on a deal to implement the longer school day with a plan to hire back 477 teachers who had been laid off rather than pay regular teachers more to work longer hours. That raised hopes the contract would be settled before the start of fall classes, but bargaining stalled on other issues.
With an average salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are already among the highest-paid in the nation. The district's final proposal included an average 7 percent raise over three years, with additional raises for experience and education. But the evaluations and job security measures stirred the most intense debate.