Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is threatening not to make up days if Chicago teachers strike — an unprecedented move that cuts into teacher pay and student instructional time.
“There is zero plan to make up any days that might be lost because of a work stoppage,” Lightfoot said Thursday morning.
The threat, though, could be empty because the teachers union could stay on strike until the school district agrees the days will be made up.
This comes the morning after the Chicago Teachers Union, along with two other unions, set an Oct. 17 strike date if no deal is reached before then. The other unions represent school staff, including classroom aides, custodians, and security guards, and Chicago Park District workers. Altogether, 35,000 workers could strike.
In past teacher strikes in Chicago, students have had to make up days, either during winter or spring break or at the end of the school year.
The assertion that schools would not make up strike days is in a “frequently asked question” section on a work stoppage contingency plan website published by Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday. Lightfoot acknowledged it Thursday morning but did not elaborate on why the district would not have students make up the days. Instead, the mayor said she is focused on getting a deal done.
“How do we get a deal done so our kids are safe and workers are treated fairly,” she said.
The Chicago Teachers Union immediately blasted Lightfoot for floating the idea that strike days would be lost. “She is either mistaken because this is her first time dealing with labor negotiations or she’s attempting to be somewhat of a bully,” said CTU Vice President Stacey Davis Gates.
Davis Gates said the mayor is wrong if she thinks teachers will capitulate if they will lose pay during a strike.
“That ship has already sailed. The only thing that she could do now with that type of threat is to further anger them and to make them feel even more devalued,” she said.
The potential unified strike could be highly disruptive because it could severely limit the number of adults available to look after students during the school day. Park District workers and school support staff were available to watch children during the last teachers strike in 2012.
But the city and school district are trying to reassure parents that there will be places for their children. Officials say schools will be open with administrators supervising and lunch and breakfast will still be served. In addition, they say libraries will be available to take in children and they are working with community organizations so parents will have even more options.
Lightfoot on Thursday also stressed, as did the CTU’s Davis Gates, that two weeks remain before a potential strike and the goal for both sides is a negotiated settlement rather than a walkout.