The Chicago teachers strike marked the ninth consecutive day of canceled classes Tuesday after a marathon day of contract negotiations the day before stretched into the early morning hours but failed to yield an agreement.
Both sides left the bargaining table after 2 a.m. CST early Tuesday, marking roughly 16 hours of negotiations, with each continuing to point fingers the following morning, trying to place the burden of reaching a resolution on the other.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday accused the Chicago Teachers Union's bargaining team of moving the goal posts in negotiations.
"We came so close, nearly to a tentative agreement on the biggest issues at stake, the two that CTU defined for us as their core issues: class size and staffing," Lightfoot said at a news conference, saying Chicago Public Schools' team had made "significant compromises to resolve these issues."
Lightfoot said the district offered an additional $70 million for staffing, including a nurse and social worker in every school, as well as $25 million dedicated to reducing class sizes, all in writing in the contract, as the union had requested.
"All told, this is a half a billion dollar offer and yet we still do not have a deal," Lighfoot said. "Instead the CTU's bargaining team continues to move the goal post and bring in more issues that do not belong in any collective bargaining contract. They've now informed us that they want us to bargain over several other matters that are legislative in nature, not contract issues."
"For example, they're demanding that I support a specific bill about an elected school board, a bill that I fundamentally think is flawed and rejected," she continued. "They also want to negotiate over a change to the state labor law that governs what issues the union can strike over. Again, this is a legislative issue not a contract issue. Are we really keeping our kids out of class unless I agree to support the CTU's full political agenda wholesale?"
CTU's general counsel Robert Bloch told a different story when emerging from negotiations overnight.
"The union has laid out a path for the settlement. We're waiting to hear from the city tomorrow morning," Bloch said at an impromptu news conference in the early morning hours.
"The issues are the same, same sticking points we've had for some time but we believe that with some additional resources we can get it done," he said.
"We believe we've shown the mayor how she can settle this contract and achieve real increases in staffing, sufficient increases in staffing to meet the objectives that we all share, real class size guarantees that the mayor has said that she supports and protection for our lowest paid members and our veteran members," Bloch continued, adding, "There are a lot of moving parts and there's different ways to approach some of the needs that our teachers have and that the students need. Some cost more money, some cost less money, so we presented some new ideas to the city and we hope they'll respond."
Standing alongside Lightfoot, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the district's latest offer gave the union "several wins" but said the issue of teacher prep time was another sticking point.
"Our contract is being held up due to a union proposal that would reduce the amount of instructional time for our students. CTU is demanding that we either cut 30 minutes off the school day or pull four full days of instruction off the calendar," Jackson said. "We feel that there is no justifiable reason that kids be prevented from going back into class tomorrow because we refuse to reduce the length of the school day or the length of the school year."
Jackson added that negotiations are "no longer about money" but instead "political issues" and "a last-minute grab to take away precious instructional time that our students need."
CPS announced Monday afternoon that classes would be canceled on Tuesday, the ninth day in a row, now stretching into the strike's third week.
More than 25,000 teachers and support staff in CTU, as well as roughly 7,500 school employees in Service Employees International Union Local 73, went on strike Oct. 17, canceling school for more than 300,000 students in the country's third-largest school district. SEIU announced a tentative agreement with the district on Sunday but said its members would continue to picket with CTU until a deal is reached.