Chicago Teachers Union & CPS still haven’t reached a resolution

Stephon Johnson | 10/31/2019, 12:33 p.m.
Chicago Teachers Union officials said their bargaining team won’t leave the table until they’ve reached a tentative agreement with Chicago ...
Chicago Teacher's Union

Chicago Teachers Union officials said their bargaining team won’t leave the table until they’ve reached a tentative agreement with Chicago Public Schools.

They’re still waiting.

As the Chicago teachers’ strike entered week 2, the city and the union remain at a stalemate. Representatives of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office refused to yield on returning $100 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds the mayor promised to CPS in her budget address.

“This mayor stood in front of the people of this city and claimed she was giving CPS over $100 million in TIF surplus funds from her slush fund—and promptly clawed back those dollars in violation of the law and past practices,” stated CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “This is literally worse than what Rahm did to our students and our schools. Our school communities need those funds and are owed those funds. These public dollars could end a strike for equity and educational justice for our schools.”

This Tuesday marked the ninth day of the strike. CTU’s constituents are comprised of more than 25,000 teachers, clinicians and support staff. According to CTU officials, 9 out of 10 schools on Chicago’s South and West sides are not equipped with a school library or a school nurse.

According to CTU, the problem is not a lack of resources, but a lack of “political will” from the mayor’s office to use TIF revenues to fund the public schools instead of corporations.

“We know there’s enough money to deliver a just contract for Chicago educators and students,” said Chicago Teachers Union organizer Matthew Luskin. “The problem is that huge amounts of taxpayer dollars are captured by corporations like Sterling Bay.”

That’s not the story coming from the city government, however. During a Tuesday news conference, Lightfoot presented parts of the negotiations she likes and others she’s not as enamored with.

Chicago has offered “…$70 million in additional staffing including a nurse and social worker in every school...in writing,” said Lightfoot, and “$25 million in class size relief...in writing. We put it all in writing because in all of these matters we fundamentally agree with the union. This is a half billion dollar offer, but CTU’s bargaining continues to move the goalposts and bring in more issues that do not belong in any collectively bargained contract.”

Lightfoot complained about CTU asking her to support an elected representative school and to negotiate over a change to the state law that governs what issues the union can strike over. Matters that she feels are legislative issues and not contract issues.

“Are you really keeping kids out of class unless I agree to support the CTU’s political agenda wholesale,” asked Lightfoot.

In the meantime, CPS school buildings will be open to students with principals and non-unionized support staff ensuring students access to play games and engage in other activities. Schools will also continue to serve breakfast and lunch to students and offer kids a meal to take home if they so choose. Charter and contract schools will keep operating on normal schedules. Libraries and parks will also be open.

There was one school-affiliated union that the mayor reached a deal with.

Lightfoot and the Chicago Board of Education announced a tentative agreement for a five-year contract with SEIU Local 73. It includes a minimum 16% raise over five years for all employees. There’s no increases in health insurance co-pays, deductibles, plan choices or out-of-pocket costs.

“The SEIU Local 73 members who work in our Chicago Public Schools are critical to our school operations, ensuring both our students and staff receive the support they need to achieve ever greater academic success,” stated Lightfoot. “I am very pleased we were able to work together to agree on a strong, fair deal that will provide substantial raises and real improvements to working environments, and I commend negotiators on both sides for their tireless effort.”

SEIU Local 73 represents close to 7,500 special education classroom assistants, bus aides, custodians and security officers who work at CPS. Despite reaching a new deal, the union decided to stand in solidarity with CTU and respect the picket lines.