The Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously on Wednesday to rescind a four-percent pay raise that teachers were expecting this year.
The vote comes as the city's schools face an estimated $712 million budget deficit -- greater than the entire budget deficit of the city of Chicago.
According to the Chicago News Cooperative, the raises for teachers and support staff would have cost the district around $100 million, which it decided Wednesday was more than it could afford.
This was the first meeting of the newly appointed school board under also-newly-appointed schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. In 2007, a previous school board approved the contract that promised raises to teachers: the Chicago Teachers Union won guarantees of four-percent raises each year for five years.
An editorial in the Chicago Tribune railed against that contract at the time it was signed, a piece that it quoted this week in anticipation of the school board's vote. "Teachers get nice raises. Mayor Richard Daley and schools boss Arne Duncan get labor peace. Why, there's something in it for everybody — except for the 415,000 Chicago kids who don't get better schools," the Tribune wrote in 2007, alluding to the fact that teachers weren't asked to spend more time at work to earn the raises.
But Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis disagreed that the contract was the problem. "This city did not get into this financial mess by paying teachers and paraprofessionals," she said, according to a separate news story in the Tribune.
Still, many teachers will receive other raises at the end of the year. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that most teachers, as many as three-quarters, will earn raises of three to five percent for years of service, and others will earn raises based on their education level.
Where this leaves the teachers' contract is unclear. The union may choose to push for a new salary schedule, or it might open up the entire contract to renegotiation, which could rope in sensitive issues like lengthening the school day and school year.