Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union pointed fingers at one another Monday as the clock continued to tick down to a potential teachers strike later this month.
At a news conference Monday morning, Lightfoot said CTU negotiators did not provide a counter-offer to the district's most recent proposal for a full week.
"On Sept. 27, CPS delivered a comprehensive offer that would honor and respect our teachers and the critical work that they do to educate and enrich the lives of our students that would be fair and sustainable for Chicagoans and above all, that would provide our students with the support they need to continue their record-breaking success," Lightfoot said.
"Since our team submitted that offer, totaling about 50 pages of material, we’ve received nothing in return from CTU until this past Friday," she continued, flanked by Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle and CPS CEO Janice Jackson. "And on last Friday, we got five sheets of paper. What we got back on Friday doesn’t address any of the substantive issues like compensation, insurance, staffing - any of those issues."
"As of this moment, CTU negotiators have not provided a comprehensive counter-offer since I took office, and that was 141 days ago," Lightfoot added, gesturing to a poster her staff had assembled next to the podium with the number 141.
Last week, the union announced that its members would strike on Oct. 17 if a deal cannot be reached. Lightfoot said the date for a deal to be made would have to be even sooner to avoid a strike, placing the deadline at Oct. 15, so the union negotiators could document the terms and take it to CTU's House of Delegates.
"Instead of meeting us at the bargaining table to solve problems, our counterparts have focused their energy on preparing for a strike rather than avoiding one," Lightfoot said. "We can't bargain alone. We need our CTU counterparts to join us in resolving the open issues."
In a statement, the CTU said its bargaining team members "remain firm in their position when it comes to class sizes, wraparound services, special and bilingual education support, and the need for increased nurse, librarian, counselor and social worker staffing," calling Lightfoot's even a "prop-laden press conference."
CTU members voted to authorize a strike late last month, setting the stage for more than 25,000 teachers and staff to walk off the job in the nation's third-largest school district.
Chicago Public Schools officials said their latest contract offer included a 16% raise, which would put the average teacher salary at nearly $100,000 within the next five years.
But CTU officials said the potential strike is more than just about money—they want improvements in areas related to class size, staffing shortages, and provisions related to safety and security of students in areas surrounding schools.
Union leaders have said they want promises made by then-candidate Lightfoot in writing, including more social workers, school nurses and librarians, as well as maximum class sizes.
CTU said Monday that the consensus of the 50-member bargaining team was that "the Board has done more stalling and stonewalling during negotiations than actual bargaining," saying that the proposals were submitted to the city in January and that CTU did not respond until July.
"It has been six months since Mayor Lightfoot promised to provide our school communities equity and justice. Today, she can do just that by putting class size caps and proper staffing of school librarians, nurses, social workers, clinicians and counselors in writing," CTU's statement concluded.