As the Chicago teachers strike enters its eighth day on Monday, both the Chicago Teachers Union and the city appear to be digging in, each side blaming the other for a failure to land a deal.
The walkout has now surpassed the last strike in 2012, which spanned seven school days.
There was some good news on Sunday. Chicago Public Schools support staff, covering 7,500 custodians, security guards, bus aides and classroom assistants, reached a tentative contract deal. However, they aren’t expected to return to work until the CTU reaches a deal.
At dueling press conferences, the two sides in the CTU contract fight made their cases.
“CTU told their membership and told the entire public that they wanted this contract to transform public education in Chicago. And this is exactly what our offer does,” Mayor Lori Ligthfoot argued at City Hall Sunday night. She was accompanied by Schools CEO Janice Jackson, who joined the negotiations for the first time late on Sunday.
“This is by any estimation an incredible offer. And despite all of this, the CTU has not it accepted. We are enormously disappointed that CTU simply cannot take yes for an answer.”
Lightfoot said the city has given what the CTU wanted, including commitments in writing to increase the number of nurses and social workers and to address class size.
That was followed soon after by a CTU press conference, where they rejected the mayor’s offer as inadequate.
“Our members did not take an authorization vote, they have not walked the picket line to go back to their community with half measures,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
Gates said CPS’ current offer offer only allows for class size protections for a third of the schools. “That’s not enough,” Davis Gates said.
Gates also highlighted the $33 million the school district pays for police in schools but said the union contact can't get funding for restorative justice coordinators
The CTU leadership repeated their assertion, first made Saturday night, that the mayor could settle the contract if she put $38 million a year more on the table. They said the additional money would be used to meet the union's class size, staffing and pay demands.
“CPS has $38 million to settle a contract in one of the richest cities in the richest countries in the world. Yet today, their misplaced priorities will put us on the picket lines again tomorrow,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement.
The union clarified Sunday night their demand is $38 million more a year. They still want a three-year contract.
But CPS Chief Operating Officer Arnie Rivera disputed that amount. He said CTU is asking for closer to $100 million by the end of a five year contract, and that’s on top of the $500 million CPS says it’s already committed to the contract. This new amount, he said isn’t doable.
Jackson repeated the same point Sunday evening.
The drama Sunday evening came after a weekend of negotiations where it became clear that money is a main obstacle to finalizing a deal.
CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade summed it up when she described the financial distance between the two sides as “huge.”
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