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Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis speaks to the media after the vote Wednesday./TRIBUNE PHOTO

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The Chicago school board has voted to reject a fact-finder’s report that recommends pay raises for Chicago’s teachers totaling 35 percent over the next four years.

Following a brief, 40-minute closed session at Chicago Public Schools headquarters, the board voted 6-0 to reject the report, saying it “did not have the resources” to increase teacher raises by that much. Board member Henry Bienen was absent.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s house of delegates also unanimously voted to reject the arbitrator’s report.

The special meeting was called to to discuss the fact-finder’s report in closed session. In a brief public comment period before the closed session, teachers repeated their calls for fair wages and smaller class sizes. Community leaders urged the two sides to reach a deal so that students will return to school on time in the fall.

“It would be an undue hardship if the two parties can not come together for the betterment of the children,” Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, told the board. “At the end of the day, we have a community that is already stretched to the brink and they don’t know what they’ll do if school doesn’t start on time.”

In rebuking the fact-finder’s report, the school board likely set in motion an intense period of negotiations to avert a teacher’s strike next month. Nine months after CPS entered talks with the teacher’s union on a new contract, the key issues remain annual raises, benefits, teacher evaluations and the rights of veteran teachers who’ve been laid off.

“Given the financial situation the district finds itself in, I’m sure it’s of no surprise to you that the board has unanimously rejected the fact-finder’s report,” School board President David Vitale said after the closed session. “Quite simply, the board does not have the resources to accept the fact-finder’s recommendation.”

He said the board will be “aggressive” over the coming weeks to strike a deal with the union.

“We expect to be back at the bargaining table immediately,” Vitale said. “I believe that both sides realize the resources available to the district are finite.”

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