CHICAGO – Chicago residents are getting the first look at the estimated cost of the city’s new four-year contract with the Chicago Teachers Union: $8.9 billion.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the contract, settled hours before a planned teachers strike for Oct. 11, will cost about $100 million more than a settlement that was rejected by union members in January.

ctuteachers“I would say this deal has about $100 million more in it,” CTU attorney Robert Bloch told the news site, adding that the final added expense could be much more because the district’s “finances are so opaque, it’s hard to know exactly what they’re spending, what the cost is.”

“There is not full agreement on the cost of certain elements of the contract, which makes it hard,” he said. Automatic annual “step” raises, for example, are expected to cost $30 million a year, but will be offset some “as people move up the ladder and fall off,” he said.

According to the Sun-Times:

The eleventh-hour agreement that staved off what would have been Chicago’s second teachers’ strike in four years calls for the city to declare a $175 million surplus from tax increment financing funds and give $87 million of that to CPS.

Among the projects sacrificed was Emanuel’s plan to build a $60 million selective enrollment high school on the Near North Side that was to be named after President Barack Obama. …

The agreement also includes a potentially costly retirement incentive for veteran teachers. Teachers who agree to retire early will get a one-time payment, which doesn’t apply to their pensions, of $1,500 for every year of service. But there’s a catch: at least 1,500 teachers must take advantage of the offer.

The deal also included retirement incentives for teachers aides, extra cash and people for overcrowded schools, and the district’s promise to continue to pay most of the retirement costs for current teachers, a massive expense district negotiators had hoped to shed. New hires will pay most of their pension payments, but they also received two significant raises over the four year contract.

Aides for Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to comment on the total cost of the contract for fear it could derail an upcoming vote ty the CTU’s House of Delegates to ratify the pact.

“In 2012, we got rejected by the House of Delegates. So until the House of Delegates votes, we won’t be out there saying anything about how much it costs or that we’re spending this much more on teachers,” an anonymous mayoral insider told the news site.

The cost of the CTU contract, however, may be the greatest for the city’s most disadvantaged students, many of whom attend charter schools that compete with the city’s traditional public schools.

According to a Chicago Tribune editorial, 98 percent of the students who attend Chicago charter schools – the largely nonunionized alternative to failing public schools – are black or Latino, and 92 percent are from low-income families. Those statistics are much higher than in CTU-staffed schools, “yet charter schools graduate and send students to college at higher rates than the district does,” the Tribune reports.

But district and union officials ignored those realities to cut a deal, and agreed to cap the number of charter schools in the city – and limit competition with CTU-staffed schools – as part of the pact.

“One thing about this unfortunate concession is certain: It is not about education, and it certainly does not have students’ best interests at heart. This action hurts the most vulnerable students in our city and takes away low-income families’ access to better schools,” Former public schools teacher and Tribune columnist Andrew Broy opined.

“Given this deal, Chicago now has the dubious distinction of being the only American city with a self-imposed cap on the number of charter public schools. For a city with such a proud record of achievement that has led the country nationally on high-quality charter growth as recently as five years ago, this is an embarrassment.

“Most troubling is that this pre-emptive move will result in fewer students graduating, fewer students going to college and fewer students equipped with the skills needed to make a difference in our city. That is too high a price to pay for temporary labor peace. The children and families of Chicago deserve better.”