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Strike Talk Reaches Fever Pitch As Teacher Negotiations Yield No Progress

City leaders say teachers union appears “determined to strike at all costs,” while the union calls the district’s latest offers a “joke.”

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Chicago Teachers Union leaders on Friday blasted Chicago Public Schools’ latest contract offers as insulting.

Sarah Karp

With a strike date just six days away, the Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s bargaining team emerged from a day of negotiations on Friday to bash each other.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused the union of not bargaining in good faith, while the union questioned whether the mayor was being petty because it did not endorse her.

Chicago Public Schools presented the teachers union with 72 pages of counterproposals on Friday, but the union called the offers insulting, especially on their major demands on class sizes and increased staffing.

“It is a joke,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. He said CPS told the union its offer on compensation, benefits, the length of the contract and teacher prep time were final.

“When you add to the fact that they told us it’s the final offer – take it or leave — that draws the line in the sand for us,” Sharkey said.

Sharkey’s comments came just after Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson issued a scathing statement. They criticized CTU for rejecting most of their proposals and not offering counters.

“It appears that CTU is refusing to negotiate in good faith and instead is determined to strike at all costs,” Lightfoot and Jackson said.

The school district also posted the offer it gave CTU. Among the CPS proposals: $400,000 a year for more nurses, social workers and case managers and $1 million annually to address overcrowded 4th through 12th grade classes. They had previously offered to add a teacher assistant to overcrowded third grade classes, as they currently do for kindergarten, first and second grade classes.

The school district’s bargaining team said they’re willing to continue discussing these issues.

Katie Osgood, a special education teacher who is on the bargaining team, called the district’s financial offers on staffing and class size paltry. She and Sharkey said they amount to a few extra staffers a year.

“None of our most critical demands were met in this offer,” she said. “This offer will not improve the lives of our children.“

The core issues in this contract fight remain unchanged: How to resolve demands by the teachers union to make changes to the contract it says will improve schools.

CTU wants a significant reduction in class size and a way to make those limits enforceable. The union also wants the school district puts promises to hire more nurses, social workers and other support staff in writing in the contract.

Lightfoot and Jackson argued they “bent over backwards to meet CTU’s concerns” in their counterproposal, including extending a moratorium on charter school openings and more supports for homeless students. They also chastised CTU for trying to address the city’s affordable housing crisis through the teachers contract.

CTU wasn’t buying it.

“There is a complete disconnection from the equity and justice that [Lightfoot] promised Chicago and the negotiating team that she sends in here,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.

The two sides will continue negotiating on Saturday. Teachers are set to strike on Oct. 17 if there is no deal. The union intends to make a call on whether to strike on Oct. 16.

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