Chicago teachers and city continue negotiations

Stephon Johnson | 10/24/2019, 2:01 p.m.
The Chicago Teachers Union and the City of Chicago continued contract negotiations this week while schools remained closed.
Chicago Teacher's Union

The Chicago Teachers Union and the City of Chicago continued contract negotiations this week while schools remained closed.

This week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent a letter to the CTU calling on them to end their strike before negotiations are settled.

“Since Thursday, when CTU and SEIU Local 73 went on strike, we have travelled around the city and heard directly from parents and students about the hardships that the strike is causing them,” wrote Lightfoot. “What we’ve seen is that our students and families are sacrificing a great deal that cannot be recovered. While we have made progress at the bargaining table, it is unclear that we can reach an agreement today given the current pace.”

According to both parties, the CTU and Chicago Public Schools have come to tentative agreements on more than a half dozen issues, including stopping the expansion of independently operated charter schools. However, they still remain separate on teacher compensation, the length of the deal, staffing and class size.

In a letter to parents, the CTU wanted to let them know that progress has been made and they hoped to return to the classroom soon.

“After only two strike days, we have seen considerable movement and crucial openings on issues such as homeless students, class sizes, staffing and other key issues that the mayor told us would not be open for bargaining,” read the letter. “Today, we got a tentative agreement for specific staff positions to support Students in Temporary Living Situations (students who qualify as homeless). For Pre-Kindergarten classes, we won contractual guarantees that CPS will follow Illinois law in maintaining a ratio of 1 adult for every 10 students in a Pre-K classroom. We also won guaranteed naps for preschoolers in all-day pre-K programs. We won language that counselors will not be pulled from counseling to do other duties such as substitute teaching in a classroom. This will lead to greater counselor access for our students.”

Last week, more than 25,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians, nurses and librarians went on strike after almost a year of bargaining with CPS. CTU officials noted that nine out of 10 schools on Chicago’s South and West sides are not equipped with a school library or a school nurse. Both sides have used Malcolm X College as a meeting ground to negotiate a new contract.

The union is hoping to come to a deal as quickly as possible and now wants a renowned civil rights leader to get involved.

On Monday, the CTU invited Rainbow/PUSH Coalition President the Rev. Jesse Jackson to help negotiate a settlement between them and the union. Jackson attended a recent bargaining session and spoke with union and district officials about the union’s desire to lower class sizes and provide more wraparound services, and he urged both sides to settle quickly.

“For the past four days, we have been on the picket lines for high quality neighborhood schools and we know that Rev. Jackson gets that,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “For our students to thrive, CTU and CPS must find common ground on class size, staffing and many of the issues that have pushed us to go out on strike, and that will require an honest and open conversation.”