Unbeknownst to the public and probably most teachers, the raises spelled out in the Chicago Teachers Union contract are not guaranteed, but the union isn’t worried.

A little noticed clause gives the School Reform Board an easy out: “The … provisions of this agreement are contingent upon a reasonable expectation by the Board of its ability to fund the agreement.”

Previous contracts have given the board an escape hatch on salaries, but the board could use it only if revenues fell below an agreed-upon level. In contrast, the contingency clause in the 1995-1999 agreement is wide open.

Union President Thomas Reece concedes that that language in the current contract appears to give the board wider latitude to deny raises. But he says it’s highly unlikely the board would exercise the option. “That would be like kids playing a dare game,” Reece says.

Political reality dictated the change in language, Reece says. For one, having a long-term contract is a plus when lobbying for more state aid in Springfield, he notes. Two, having an out on raises has helped the board convince the financial community that it can respond to unforeseen circumstances and, thus, is a good credit risk, he says.

At the same time, political reality dictates that the board not abuse the option to withhold or reduce raises. “We didn’t actually give away anything,” Reece insists.

Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas has said the raises will continue to be honored. He also wants to extend the current contract.

Veronica Anderson

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