Chicago Staff Report
The 11-day old teachers strike ended Thursday after Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teacher’s Union agreed to make up five days one day after the union approved a tentative contract agreement.
“We are pleased to have reached a deal with the Chicago Teachers Union to resolve the strike, and enable our students to return to school tomorrow,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This five-year overall agreement is historic. It provides significant benefits to our teachers, our school support staff, our families, and most importantly, to our students. The entire city will ultimately benefit.”
The agreement was a compromise after both sides arrived at an impasse Wednesday as Lori Lightfoot held firm to her position that she would not consider adding days at the end of the year to make up days that were lost during the strike.
Public support was weakening for the striking teachers as the strike that kept Chicago Public Schools closed since October 17 dragged on. There was now concern that the public is growing tired of the strike and may view the CTU as the problem rather than CPS and Lightfoot.
The five-year tentative contract includes a 16 percent raise for CPS teachers. However, the union’s bargaining team recommended that delegates approve the tentative agreement and suspending the strike if they mayor agrees to allow teachers to get some of the lost days.
On Tuesday evening, the negotiations continued at Malcolm X College on the West Side after the union’s House of Delegates held an informal meeting where no vote was taken. However, CPS canceled classes Wednesday, adding another day of frustration for Mayor Lori Lightfoot and parents who wanted to see their children back in school.
Negotiations resumed Wednesday at Malcolm X College after an informational House of Delegates meeting Tuesday night. No vote was taken at that meeting and CPS canceled classes afterwards.
By Wednesday afternoon, the main issue left to resolve with Lightfoot was whether the teachers would be allowed to make up missed days caused by the strike. Positive signs of a possible agreement seemed to appear as the union and CPS worked together on a plan to address those concerns. The details were tricky as CPS would have to extend the school year for teachers to get paid for missed days.
The last day of school on the CPS calendar is June 16, but that would change to June 30 if the missed days from the strike are added on the end of the year.
During negotiations, Lightfoot repeatedly said that she would not allow the striking teachers to make up for lost time. But with patience wearing thin after a long strike, questions remain whether Lightfoot would offer a compromise.
For CTU, the strike remains a long, hard-fought battle that’s testing the patience of parents and those who have stood behind teachers. Before the House of Delegates voted, CTU sent an email saying the union is “prepared to take a tentative agreement to its House of Delegates for consideration tonight if CPS and the mayor agree to make up lost school days at the end of the year.”
In that same email sent Wednesday, CTU Vice President Stacy Davis asked, “Why is the mayor taking out her anger over the strike on CPS students by reducing instructional time?”
After a protest Wednesday, crowds of union teachers blocked traffic during a rally near The 78, a proposed 62-acre urban development that will become Chicago’s 78th neighborhood, bordered by Clark, Roosevelt, 16th Street and Chicago Avenue. They marched west on Roosevelt Road and headed to the University of Illinois-Chicago campus where a rally was held.
On Tuesday, nine teachers were arrested during a sit-in at Sterling Bay headquarters on the Near West Side. CTU had a scheduled news conference at that location to draw attention to tax money the union says is diverted from schools to developers like Sterling Bay.
But those issues drew criticism from parents and other Chicagoans who began to blame the union for drawn-out negotiations and the strike. Some saw the union as being uncompromising as Lightfoot made the final of five offers since the negotiations began two months ago.
Lightfoot had accused the CTU of making the issue of an elected school board a sticking point in the negotiations. She argued that it was a political issue that had no place in the negotiations.