Back to the bargaining table for CLE teachers and school board trying to iron out new labor contract

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It looks like it’s back to the bargaining table for Cleveland teachers and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education, as both sides try to iron out a new labor contract.

Last month, a fact-finder began picking apart negotiations to offer recommendations for teachers and the school board to consider in a new deal. Friday, she submitted her report to both sides.

"I am recommending that the Board of Education reject the fact finders report," announced Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon, during a special school board meeting held inside the auditorium of Lincoln-West High School Tuesday night.

In a unanimous vote, Cleveland school board members rejected a fact finder’s report that would have essentially sent a tentative labor contract for the district's teachers to consider. It’s a report the Cleveland Teacher's Union had already recommended that its members reject as well.

"Although we are unable to bring these negotiations to a close this evening, the district's negotiating team and I remain committed to negotiating a contract with the CTU that is good or the district's children, fair to our employees and protects the progress the district has made," Gordon said.

Cleveland teachers and the school district have been negotiating for a new contract since last November. In February, they agreed to let a "fact finder," similar to a mediator, come up with a proposal that both sides could live with. That work began in mid-April.

"The fact finder's report has moved both sides a long way and she gets us closer to the finish line; this report brings us to that home stretch," said David Quolke, president of the Cleveland Teacher's Union.

Quolke says teachers agreed on some things in the report and disagreed on others. For example, he says in reference to salaries and evaluations, the fact finder recommended both sides return to the bargaining table, but there's no guarantee that would happen.

"By accepting the report, you basically shut down all those talks because the report would be good for the three years," Quolke said.

Union leaders say they also expect the teachers to reject the fact finder's report and hope they can agree on a contract before their current one ends June 30.

"We're united as a union; we want a fair contract, one that's good for kids and one that's fair for educators and we're willing and able to go back to the table and get that job done," said Quolke.

Union leaders say the average Cleveland teacher’s salary is about $66,500 annually.

The teachers will vote on the fact finder’s report during elections held Wednesday through Friday. At the same time they will take a strike authorization vote. The union president says teachers do not intend to strike, but they want to have votes already cast in case they cannot come to an agreement with the school board in a reasonable amount of time.

More on Cleveland Schools here.

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