Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Teachers Union to Vote on Tentative Agreement to Return to Schools

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Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are slated to vote on a tentative agreement with Chicago Public Schools to return to classrooms as early as this week.

CPS and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Sunday that the district had reached a potential agreement with CTU after weeks of negotiations.

The deal, which will need to be ratified by the CTU's House of Delegates, will allow teachers and students to return to classrooms in the coming weeks, with pre-K and cluster students expected to return this week.

"We are here to announce the very good news that our children will be returning to in-person learning this week," Lightfoot said. "These past 11 months have been a whirlwind for our entire city, pushing us to limits countless times. We’ve lost jobs, we’ve lost loved ones. We have all been on a nonstop emotional rollercoaster that we have individually and collectively tried to navigate."

Children in kindergarten through eighth grade who have opted for a return to in-person learning will get back into classrooms next month under the proposal.

According to CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson, teachers and students in pre-K and cluster learning environments will return to classrooms on Thursday under the tentative agreement.

For students in kindergarten through fifth grade, staff and teachers will return to classrooms on Feb. 22, with students returning on March 1.

For sixth through eighth grade, teachers are expected to return to classrooms on March 1, with students returning to classrooms on March 8.

Under the terms of the new agreement, 1,500 CPS staffers are expected to be vaccinated each week under a new program devised during the collective bargaining process. Additional staffers will also receive vaccines through the city's pre-existing programs for Phase 1B of the state's vaccination rollout plan.

Protocols were also set up to determine whether it was necessary for schools to revert to e-learning, and separate metrics were established to dictate whether it would be necessary for the entire CPS system to go back to remote learning in the event of a spike in cases.

An up-or-down vote by the union could potentially occur as early as Monday night.

Sources said a lockout Monday for teachers was “unlikely” as a result of the progress made in negotiations, and union officials say that the proposed agreement could be the “best deal possible without an ugly strike.”

While the CTU said that there is not an agreement yet, they did say that Lightfoot and her team made an offer Saturday night that "merits further review."

"What we have is a framework that all of our members must first review and assess, because it is our members who are being asked to return to school buildings in the midst of a global pandemic," CTU tweeted.

"Our rank-and-file members are reviewing the framework, and their leadership will determine how we proceed. Nothing is perfect, but this moment, and our work for nearly a year has once again proved that there is no sensible path to collective good without collective action," a second tweet from the union reads.

On Friday, Lightfoot said that CPS had delivered its “last, best and final offer” to teachers, saying that pre-K and cluster teachers and staff were expected to return to school buildings Monday with students joining them on Tuesday.

Those comments followed a war of words on Thursday, with Lightfoot saying discussions had moved “backwards,” while union officials accused her and the district of “mocking” the CTU for raising needs of families “beyond the classroom.”

Originally, teachers and students in cluster learning environments and pre-K classrooms reported back to school in January. Teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade classes were then supposed to report to classrooms on Jan. 25, with students returning on Feb. 1.

Instead, a CTU vote led all teachers to switch back to remote learning during that time period, setting up a showdown between the union and CPS officials.

There were many sources of disagreement between the two sides, including over vaccination planning for teachers and staff at schools, ventilation within classrooms, and contact tracing efforts.

Tense negotiations followed, with Lightfoot saying that teachers could potentially be locked out if they opted not to return to classrooms. A “cooling off period” was called for last week as the two sides continued negotiating, with teachers allowed to continue their remote learning plans during that time.

Talks continued in fits and starts throughout the week, with teachers and CPS officials reaching agreements on several key issues, while others remained unresolved.

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