U.S. & World
As was the case with Day 1, negotiators pointed toward progress during Day 2 of the Chicago Teachers Union Strike on Friday. However, it remained unclear when exactly classes would resume.
Thousands of teachers, students and allies marched downtown for a second day on Friday.
City officials had expressed a sense of frustration that teachers were more concerned with marching and TV appearances than face-to-face meetings.
Still, the Chicago Teachers Union reported progress at the bargaining table on Day 1 of the second Chicago teachers' strike in seven years. Specifically, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the union received a written proposal about class size.
"After our rally yesterday, we saw things we had come across the table that we've never seen before," Karen Soto, CTU bargaining team member, said on Friday. "That's showing that our movement has power."
CTU's House of Delegates on Wednesday voted to reject the final contract offer from CPS during an emergency meeting, paving the way for the strike beginning at 12 a.m. Thursday.
Reducing class sizes in the nation's third-largest school district is one of several sticking points between the two sides.
Picketing teachers said Thursday the walkout was about getting more resources for students in the cash-strapped district, not about putting more money in their pockets.
Outside Smyth Elementary, a predominantly black and low-income school on the city's near South Side, art teacher John Houlihan said "we're not fighting for paychecks and health care. It's the kids."
"It's ridiculous to say that you can put these kids who are dealing with profound poverty and profound homelessness in classes of 30 to 40 kids," said Houlihan, who picketed with about 20 other teachers and staff as drivers passed by, honking their horns. "That's not manageable and it is not an environment for learning."
The strike is Chicago's first major walkout by teachers since 2012. And just as that strike inspired unions in Los Angeles and other politically left-leaning cities to walk off the job and protest over issues such as class size and student services, unions nationwide are today watching closely to see how parents respond to a walkout based on a "social justice" agenda.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was disappointed by the union's decision to strike.
"We are offering a historic package on the core issues — salary, staffing and class size," she said.
Lightfoot voiced frustration about what she described as the union's lack of urgency to make a deal. "So, what we need is for the union to come back to the table to bargain in good faith, spend the time actually getting a deal done, face to face with us, and not off to the side in a caucus," she said. "If there is a seriousness of purpose and a willingness on the other side we could get a deal done today."
"We don't just want a fast deal," Sharkey said before leading teachers on a march through the city's downtown streets. "We are going to hold fast to a just deal."
Also striking are 7,000 support staffers, whose union also failed to reach a contract agreement.
Maggie Sermont, a 32-year-old special education teacher, said Chalmers' teachers are concerned that a nurse, social worker and speech pathologist typically visit the school just once a week. Kids may see those specialty staff in group sessions that further limit their one-on-one time, she said.
"It just feels like we're putting a Band-Aid over a bullet hole," she said.
During the 2012 strike, the district kept some schools open for half days during a seven-day walkout. This time, all buildings are staying open during school hours, staffed by principals and employees who usually work in administrative roles.
Breakfast and lunch will be served, but all after-school activities and school buses are suspended.
Janice Jackson, the district's CEO, encouraged parents to send their children to the school that they normally attend, however they will be welcome in any district schools.
"We've put together a really comprehensive plan for the students," Jackson said. "We will make sure they are safe and they have a productive day."