Negotiators for Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union ended the day without a deal.
It means there’s a chance that more than 35,000 teachers and school support staff could be on the picket line Thursday morning, instead of in the classroom.
“We’re going to tell them by unanimous vote that we cannot recommend postponing a strike which is set to start on Thursday Oct. 17,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said.
— Brandis Friedman (@BrandisFriedman) October 16, 2019
“There is no other place I’d rather be than with my students, but we have not gotten far enough, unfortunately. Negotiations have not gotten anywhere on class size,” said Robin Blake Boose, a teacher at Arthur Ashe Elementary School and member of CTU’s bargaining unit.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday called for a sense of urgency at the bargaining table, and says the two sides are running out of time. The union wants to take whatever deal is reached to its 700-memeber House of Delegates on Wednesday to decide whether there is a tentative contract, or a strike on Thursday. But the mayor says that urgency has been challenging, when working with the union’s bargaining unit – made of 40 rank-and-file members from positions across the district.
“And then CTU goes off into its bargaining group and they caucus for some indefinite period of time. Today, it started this morning – they were gone in their caucus for about three hours, while our folks wait. Then, we come back together and see what the caucus has produced. It’s not bickering, but it’s a slow process,” Lightfoot told reporters Tuesday during a briefing.
The union has a similar complaint about the city not showing the same sense of urgency it’s asking for. A source tells WTTW News the city brought in several accountants Tuesday to start calculating the real costs of some of the proposals being negotiated – and the union feels like that should’ve been done much sooner.
Even though bargaining is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning, sources on both sides say not enough progress has been made on the issue of class sizes and staffing.
Late Tuesday afternoon the district sent an email to parents letting them know that in the event of a strike schools will still be open. Parents can send their kids to any age-appropriate Chicago Public Schools location – though they encourage sending them to their regular school.
There, they’ll be served at least breakfast and lunch. But otherwise, much of the regular day has been canceled: no after-school activities, field trips, team practices, etc. CPS CEO Janice Jackson acknowledges these won’t be learning days.
“We will make sure we have productive activities for the students and parents will make a decision whether or not they want their children to participate. But I think the point that Mayor Lightfoot raised earlier is a really important one: We have a lot of families, over 80% of the families in CPS are low-income families. And we have parents who if they don’t go to work, they don’t get paid. We need to make sure that there’s a place for their children to go, so that they can continue doing what they need to do to support their families,” Jackson said.
Jackson says the city has partnered with sister agencies to provide safe spaces for students, like Chicago Public Library branches, safe havens and some parks. Of course, some park district employees will also be on strike.
A number of organizations held a press conference Tuesday to show support for the teachers and school workers.
Two groups, the Chicago Teachers and Staff Solidarity Campaign and Parents 4 Teachers, presented Lightfoot with a statement signed by 68 community and parent organizations.
They’re urging supporters to call the mayor and reiterate the CTU demands on staffing, and letting her know that they support the teachers.
But not all parents are supporters of this strike.
Some of them also think what the teachers are asking for – affordable housing, for instance – is out of bounds of what the collective bargaining agreement is for, and that a 16% salary increase is a good deal.
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