Mayor Lori Lightfoot repeated on Thursday that she wants what the Chicago Teachers Union wants when it comes to putting more librarians, counselors and support staff in schools, but she did not detail a specific contract offer.
“We are not going to have a contract that doesn’t include a lot of the things that we also believe in,” she said. “We believe in strengthening our classroom experience.”
However, Lightfoot noted the school district must “work within the framework and the resources we have.” Lightfoot said school district officials have been negotiating these issues since January. The CTU contract expired June 30.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey acknowledged there have been talks that address increasing staffing levels and other nonpay issues, but no proposals. The union wants a librarian in every school and an increase in social workers and counselors so caseloads can be reduced.
Just Wednesday, Lightfoot announced the school district is offering teachers a 14% pay increase over five years, or about 2.8% a year. She said this raise will cost the school district more than $300 million.
But Sharkey also blasted that proposal, noting that with health care costs increasing, the raise will be cut to about 12.5%. The union is pushing for a 5% salary for each of the next three years. The union criticized the proposal for failing to address key issues, including improving special education and reducing class size.
This heightened back-and-forth comes after days after the expiration of the contract, which covers teachers as well as clinicians and other staff. It is not unusual for the contract to expire before a deal is reached, but the union has complained talks were slow going as they waited for the new mayor to get established.
Sharkey has said the union will not go into the school year without a contract. The union has taken the necessary legal steps so it can go strike in September if no deal is reached before then.
Lightfoot has said that she does not want a strike. She said now that the school district has made a proposal over pay, there’s no reason a deal can not be reached by September. “The ball is in their court,” she said.