Sunday will be a big day for Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union. After an agreement was hammered out late Saturday night, the union's House of Delegates will meet on Sunday and decide whether or not to end the strike.
“We are a democratic body and therefore we want to ensure all of our members have had the chance to weigh-in on what we were able to win,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “We believe this is a good contract, however, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our District."
The delegates will meet at 3 p.m. Sunday. If they approve the contract, it could mean an end to Chicago's first teacher strike in 25 years and 350,000 students could be back in the classroom as early as Monday. But delegates could ask for 24-hours to talk to individual members in their schools before making a decision on what to do next.
Also, delegates are not the ones who will sign off on the new contract, union leadership explained. That responsibility remains with the union rank and file.
Just before midnight on Saturday, the CTU released details of the contract on their website. The proposed contract includes the following:
- The CTU wants a three year contract, which guarantees a 3 percent increase the first year and a 2 percent increase for both the second and third year. It also includes the option to extend the contract for a fourth year with a 3 percent raise.
- CPS will move away from merit pay.
- The board will hire over over 600 additional ‘special’ teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other classes.
- One half of all CPS hires must be displaced members.
- CPS will evalute teachers based on 70 percent "teacher practice" and 30 percent "student growth. Additionally, the first year of implementation will not harm tenured teachers and there is a right to appeal the evalutions.
Negotiators started Saturday morning with a vow to remain at the table all day, to hammer out final details in an agreement which could open classroom doors again on Monday.
"Hopefully we can do it," said Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey on Saturday before heading into talks to end the week-long teacher strike. "But like I said, the devil's in the details in the contracts, and we want it in writing."
The talks, which began at 9 a.m. Saturday, took most of the day and were still going on 12 hours later. Both sides are working out the details to a "tentative" contract that could suspend the strike and put students back in class.
Once the language of the contract is decided, it will go to the union's House of Delegates for approval. Both sides have expressed a desire to have the contract ready for approval by Sunday.
Even though an agreement is still being negotiated, Sharkey thinks the strike itself was a victory for his members.
"Educators in the city of Chicago feel like they've had their voices heard for the first time in a very long time," he said. "Frankly we're tired of the political establishment taking credit for every gain the schools make, when we're the ones who do all the work."
Earlier in the day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had no words about the possibility of an agreement and refused all questions pertaining to the strike as he worked the crowd at the Mexican Independence Parade.
Around the same time in Union Park, an estimated 2,500 teachers and supporters gathered for a "Solidarity Rally."
CTU President Karen Lewis was one of the 20 speakers who took to the stage during the rally and applauded the teachers for standing their ground while reminding them the work was not over.
"We are still on strike," Lewis told the crowd decked out in red. "We have a framework; we do not have an agreement."
On Friday, leaders on both sides of Chicago's teacher strike said they have a "framework" in place to end the stalemate that's embroiled the city and kept students out of classes for a full week.
Chicago's first teacher strike in 25 years could end Sunday if the union's House of Delegates approves that action. The delegates are not the ones who will sign off on the new contract, however, union leadership explained. That responsibility remains with the union rank and file.