CTU Says A Strike Is Near- So What’s Next? | WBEZ
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CTU Says A Strike Is Near- So What’s Next?

The Chicago Teachers Union is another step closer to a strike after rejecting contract recommendations from an independent mediator over the weekend. 

Union president Karen Lewis says the countdown to a strike has started, but Chicago Public Schools chief Forrest Claypool says he hopes to have a deal before it comes to that.

So what happens next? WBEZ reporter Sarah Karp answers some of the big questions:

Will the teachers actually strike?

Karen Lewis has said that no teacher wants to strike and that teachers would rather be in front of their students. But the two sides remain far apart on a number of issues, and there’s no guarantee that the teachers’ demands will be met.

What are the teachers asking for? 

  • Smaller class sizes: CTU wants enforceable limits. Right now, there are guidelines but no consequences if class sizes go over.
  • Fair teacher salaries: The teachers’ goal is to make sure that they won’t be making less money at the end of this contract. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool says the teachers will come out ahead, but the union says that despite raises, teachers will lose money because of increasing health insurance costs. 
  • Closing loopholes: CTU says that the deal offered by CPS has too many loopholes. For example, there is a promise of no growth in charter schools, but the state has a commission that can approve charters over and above what CPS approves. In addition, there would be a moratorium on school closings, but in the past CPS has closed schools without calling them school closings.
  • Claypool said that he’ll release a balanced budget next month. Is that even possible at this point? What would a balanced budget look like? 

    It will likely mean big budget cuts for schools, which is a way to put pressure on the union-- from two sides.

    First, those budget cuts will result layoffs that CTU doesn’t want. And layoffs mean larger class sizes, which would encourage parents to put pressure on CTU to accept a deal, since no parent wants their child in a class of 40 kids. 

    So is there any light at the end of the tunnel? 

    CTU could decide to put off the strike until September, which would give state lawmakers a chance to pass a school funding bill. (There are options on the table in Springfield, but they wouldn’t necessarily guarantee more money for Chicago schools.) More money from the state could make teachers less worried about mass layoffs and more likely to accept a deal. 

    For more backstory, follow our contract negotiation timeline to the one day walkout on April 1.

    Sarah Karp is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @sskedreporter.

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