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Mayor: Mediator’s Proposed Teacher Raise Not ‘Tethered To Reality’

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CPS Classroom

A Chicago Public Schools classroom. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel today dismissed a mediator’s report that school officials had hoped would provide added bargaining power in their contract talks with teachers.

Instead, the mayor urged the two sides to negotiate a deal that would be fair to everyone.

Especially, he says, fair to the children.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine asked the mayor about the mediator’s proposed package of salary hikes, cost of living allowances and merit pay.

Emanuel didn’t go quite as far as the Chicago Tribune editorial on Tuesday, which said mediator Edwin Benn wasn’t living on the same planet as the rest of us.

But it was pretty close.

A “35 percent [raise] over three years is not tethered to reality,” the mayor said.

The reality, according to the mayor, is that teachers are already paid more for doing less than teachers in other cities.

“When you have the shortest day and the shortest year of any major city, you shortchange your children,” he said.

His push for a longer school day dates back to his campaign for mayor when he compared Chicago to other major cities.

CBS 2 went to National Center on Time and Learning to check his figures.

Chicago, at 5 hours and 50 minutes, has a shorter day than Boston’s 6 hours, Atlanta’s 6.5 hours, and Houston’s 7 hours and 15 minutes.

Yet, at $76,000 a year, according to CPS, they’re paid higher salaries than teachers in Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami–even more on average than New York.

“I believe everybody should be fairly compensated, but I don’t believe you have a system that doesn’t give our kids what they need because this is their future,” Emanuel said.

The Chicago Teachers Union, which disputes the CPS figures, is demanding more money for a longer school day.

The mayor and CPS had criticized the teachers union for taking a strike authorization vote before the mediator’s report was in, assuming the report by Edwin Benn–a 63 year-old labor lawyer who’d mediated labor disputes involving public employees like teachers and firefighters, the NFL players association, stockbrokers and steelworkers–would be favorable to CPS.

It wasn’t.

“I appreciate his work, but it’s not connected to reality,” Emanuel said. “We will get our work done. The parties need to get their work done because it’s in the interest of our children, who unlike in the past, the school children of the City of Chicago will not be left on the side of the road.”

Benn has been unavailable to defend his report, which CPS claims goes far beyond his authority.

In the past year alone, Benn has ruled against the city and state three other times in cases involving police, firefighters and other government workers.

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