The Chicago Teachers Union announced Wednesday evening its delegates have set a strike authorization vote for the last week of September, meaning a teachers strike could come as soon as Oct. 7. It’s the latest turn in what’s been a contentious round of contract negotiations.
“By CPS’ own admission, we’re confronting serious shortages in staffing and resources, yet all we get are press release promises – and nothing enforceable in writing,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a press release. “We know from years of bitter experience and broken promises that to win real transformation, we need enforceable language in a binding contract.”
The Chicago Public Schools budget just passed by the Board of Education contains what the district calls a “down payment” on a plan to hire at least 250 nurses and 200 social workers over the next five years. The district has also offered 16% raises over five years, but CTU leadership says it doesn’t trust the district.
“Things have definitely heated up in the last couple of days with school starting back, but I count that as a good sign,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said Thursday on “Chicago Tonight” about ongoing bargaining sessions. “We’re really serious about coming to a resolution. I think our partners at CTU are equally serious, and it really is about figuring out, ‘What is it going to take to land the plane and come up with a contract?’ … We’ve made an offer that I think most teachers looking at their paycheck, looking at the fact that over the course of the next five years they’re going to see upwards of a $20,000 pay increase – people feel good about that.”
Despite the high-profile negotiations, a new teachers’ contract is far from the only issue facing CPS. Graduation gains, enrollment losses, the perennial budget crunch and equity across the city are just a few of the issues facing Jackson. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new STEM high school in Englewood on Tuesday, Jackson emphasized her commitment to a long-elusive goal.
“I share the same vision that Mayor Lightfoot has for bringing more equity and opportunity to citizens of Chicago, especially on the South and West side of the city,” Jackson said. “Schools are anchors in our community, and we know that.”