Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools Cancels Classes Wednesday as Negotiations Continue

“Based on how it goes tomorrow, if there’s a tentative agreement… we would bring in our delegates in the afternoon,” said Jesse Sharkey

Chicago Public Schools awaited the results of a Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting Tuesday evening before deciding to continue to cancel classes once again on Wednesday.

The union called for CTU leaders to meet at 6 p.m. as negotiations continued despite a marathon bargaining session that failed to yield an agreement earlier in the day. 

“We were still at city hall…talking to the mayor as late as four in the afternoon and that was productive, respectful,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey, and then they continued their talks at the meeting with the delegates.

“Based on how it goes tomorrow, if there’s a tentative agreement… we would bring in our delegates in the afternoon,” and vote he said. “I think that we have seen meaningful and important offers on those items and issues, but I’ve got to actually see the written language.”

At the press conference Tuesday evening, CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said that Mayor Lori Lightfoot “set up an unfair expectation for this meeting today,” to merely put pressure on members, who Gates said had clearly communicated earlier that they were not planning on voting at the meeting Tuesday.

“We want to stay optimistic and hopeful,” Gates stated.

Lightfoot held a press conference Tuesday evening ahead of that meeting and publicly released CPS' offer to the union. Find CPS' proposed tentative agreement below:

"Depending upon the outcome of their meeting, we will know if classes can resume tomorrow," CPS said in a statement. "We will notify families as soon as we receive confirmation from CTU." 

The union said in a statement that the 6 p.m. meeting would be used to "review the current status of bargaining" and criticized the mayor for making it seem like a tentative deal was imminent.

"This afternoon, CPS sent a robocall to parents and educators saying that the CTU’s House of Delegates might vote at its 6 pm meeting to accept a deal and return to schools — even though the Mayor and CPS know that there’s no tentative agreement that the HoD could approve even if they wanted to," CTU's statement read.

CPS also announced that the PSAT assessment was canceled for Wednesday "regardless of whether classes are in session," the statement read.

"The district has confirmation from the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation that juniors will be able to submit their April 2020 SAT test scores for consideration for the National Merit Scholarship," the statement went on to read.

Both sides left the bargaining table after 2 a.m. following roughly 16 hours of negotiations, with each continuing to point fingers. Negotiations resumed later in the morning hours. 

Shortly after the House of Delegates meeting was called, several protesters held a demonstration outside Sterling Bay, arguing that TIF funds dedicated to the Lincoln Yards project should instead be given to schools. 

A number of people were seen entering the building before they were handcuffed and escorted out by police. 

Sterling Bay tweeted the arrests were made "at the request of Fulton West's new management and ownership, not Sterling Bay." 

Lightfoot on Tuesday accused the 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.

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