As classes remain canceled at Chicago Public Schools during the ongoing teachers strike, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson are calling for the Chicago Teachers Union to put an end to the strike and have teachers return to classrooms while negotiations continue.
In a letter addressed to CTU President Jesse Sharkey, Lightfoot and Jackson cited the hardships that parents and students are going through during the work stoppage, and called on teachers to return to work as negotiations continue on a new contract between the two sides.
“The students and families of Chicago cannot afford to be out of school for any longer, which is why we are asking you to end the strike and encourage your members to return to work while bargaining continues,” the letter read. “As someone who is concerned about the success of our students, we hope you see how necessary it is to reopen schools at this time.”
Lightfoot and Jackson cited the cancellation of a college fair at Whitney Young, the potential ineligibility of the Simeon football team to participate in the state tournament, and the forfeiture of state tournament matches by girls tennis teams as examples of how students are being impacted by the strike.
In a response posted on social media, the teachers’ union dismissed the premise of the letter, saying that “this isn’t what we meant” by putting a proposal in writing:
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, 24th Ward Alderman Michael Scott said that he didn't think the union will end the strike while negotiations are ongoing.
“I wish they would, but there’s no way in the world they’ll give up their leverage,” he told the paper. “They feel that they have pressure on the administration to move their agenda forward. That’ll never happen.”
Monday marks the third day of missed classes for students, and while CPS buildings have remained open to give students a place to go during the day, Lightfoot says that the canceled athletic events and extracurricular activities are making the work stoppage especially difficult to deal with.
“Our children and families do not have the luxury of additional days out of school to wait for the process to play out,” the letter said. “We ask CTU to stay at the bargaining table and accelerate the pace (of negotiations), but end the strike and encourage your members to come back to work.
“We can close out the remaining issues with our students back in class,” they added.
Sharkey said Monday that “real progress” has been made at the negotiating table since the strike began, but cautioned that “we still have a ways to go in a number of areas.”
“After 10 months of telling us that they would not bargain over class size and staffing, we saw written proposals on Friday and Saturday on class size and staffing,” he said. “Now the question is trying to get those two things to a place where they’re adequate.”