Chicago Public Schools Students Return to Class as Potential Teachers Strike Looms

Summer is officially over for students at Chicago Public Schools, who head back to class Tuesday in the midst of contract negotiations between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union.

Hundreds of thousands of children return to schools across the city, despite the fact that Chicago teachers don't have a contract in place - and a possible strike is looming.

CTU leaders held a news conference outside of Benito Juarez Community Academy in the city's Pilsen neighborhood early Tuesday, reiterating that teachers could strike as early as next month.

"As you return to school, your teachers are happy to see you, but we're also concerned for the future; we're concerned to make sure that public schools in Chicago continue to be great schools and that we secure a contract which guarantees that and puts that in writing," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. 

Last week, the union rejected a contract offer recommended by a third-party arbitrator that included a 16% pay increase over five years, equaling about $351 million.

But the teachers union said it was about more than just money, asking for smaller class sizes, as well as more special education teachers, social workers and librarians, among other requests.

Their rejection of that offer on Aug. 26 started the countdown clock to a possible strike, legally allowing the union to strike after 30 days.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said they feel they're making progress with negotiations - and that on Tuesday, their focus was on the students.

Jackson and Lightfoot will be ringing the bell for the first day of the school year at the new Englewood STEM High School, an $85 million state-of-the-art facility opening Tuesday for 400 freshmen. They were expected to address the contract negotiations there as well.

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