Chicago Teachers Union Says Strike Is ‘Overwhelmingly Certain'

The Chicago Teachers Union bargaining team said Tuesday evening that a strike Thursday is "overwhelmingly certain" after continuous negotiations have failed to reach an agreement.

Chicago Public Schools and CTU officials have met more than 50 times throughout the course of contract negotiations thus far and now, the union is asking teachers to walk off the job starting Thursday.

“We need a manageable case load size," said school counselor Kristy Brooks. "That means no more than 250 kids belonging to one counselor.”

Both sides remain at odds over issues like class sizes, staffing shortages and security of students in areas surrounding schools. 

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement following negotiations on Monday that the district's team "expressed a willingness to find solutions" on the union's framework for staffing and class sizes "that would be written directly into the contract."

"We remain committed to getting a deal done, as our teachers, students and families deserve no less," their statement continued.

“Lori I ask you, bring a real offer to the table," said a teachers' assistant Willie Cousins. 

For their part, CTU said in a statement "educators and frontline staff have no written tentative agreement yet that addresses critical staffing shortages, exploding class sizes and desperately needed resources in the city's public schools," adding that the bargaining team would return to negotiations on Tuesday "as the clock continues to tick on reaching a final tentative agreement in time to give rank and file members an opportunity to review and accept or reject" it.

"The board is talking to us now about class size and staffing. We still don't have their ideas actually written down on paper," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said at a news conference Monday evening.

"These ideas are coming to us across the table but aren't yet written down and we're getting late, the hour's getting late," Sharkey continued. "The process is getting toward the point where we're gonna have to summarize what's happened and communicate to our members in schools so they can vote. Teachers need to see the written proposals and make a decision on this Wednesday."

CTU's House of Delegates plans to hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss updates in the negotiation process and whether or not the union will strike.

Not among the key issues still up for debate is salary - with CPS' contract offer including a 16% raise, which would put the average teacher salary at nearly $100,000 within the next five years. CTU officials said the potential strike is about more than just money - they have said they want promises made by then-candidate Lightfoot when she was running to be put into writing.

If no agreement is reached, more than 25,000 teachers and staff will walk off the job Thursday morning at 12 a.m., hitting the picket lines in the nation's third-largest school district.

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