Chicago Teachers Strike Enters 5th Day, Classes Canceled Monday

WBBM Newsradio Staff
October 21, 2019 - 7:51 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Chicago teachers strike continues for a fifth day Monday and CPS classes are canceled.

CPS made the announcement Sunday on social media and the CPS website that classes have been canceled for the third school day in a row as a result of the ongoing teachers strike.

That means more than 300,000 kids at more than 500 different schools will not be reporting to class for a third straight day. School buildings will remain open for students who need a safe place to stay and meals will be provided for those students. 

The Chicago Teachers Union said Saturday it’s achieved a victory in contract talks with the school board to end the teachers strike, but the union said there are still other hurdles to clear. 

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said after months of claiming it couldn’t be done, the school board offered written proposals for staffing levels for nurses and social workers in city schools.

"We are not just seeking a fast deal — we are seeking a just deal," Sharkey said. 

Sharkey added that the written proposals show the city is feeling the pressure from the strike and from what Sharkey calls community support for teacher demands. He said teachers are prepared to stay off the job as long as it takes.

Sharkey said the union still plans to hold out for issues such as class size, pay, affordable housing and services for homeless students.

The CTU released a statement Sunday night reiterating the significant gains.

"For 10 months we had absolutely no progress on key proposals. After only two strike days, we have seen considerable movement and crucial openings on issues such as homeless students, class sizes, staffing and other key issues that the Mayor told us would not be open for bargaining. Today, we got a tentative agreement for specific staff positions to support Students in Temporary Living Situations (students who qualify as homeless). For Pre-Kindergarten classes, we won contractual guarantees that CPS will follow Illinois law in maintaining a ratio of 1 adult for every 10 students in a Pre-K classroom. We also won guaranteed naps for preschoolers in all-day pre-K programs. We won language that counselors will not be pulled from counseling to do other duties such as substitute teaching in a classroom. This will lead to greater counselor access for our students.

"We also brought CPS a new counter-offer on class size, today. We need guaranteed caps on class sizes and we continue to fight for them. There are still many open issues, including prep time and steps for veteran teachers, as well as a raise capable of moving our lowest-paid paraprofessionals above poverty wages.

"Our gains have only been possible thanks to the strength of our picket lines, the turnout at our afternoon protests and the support we’ve gotten from students, parents and community members. Keep it up!"

Mayor Lightfoot also stated Sunday on Twitter that some progress with the Chicago Teachers Union has been made since Saturday, remaining hopeful CTU will "bring this process to a fair and responsible end."

"While we continue to bargain in good faith and have made progress, we still have not received full, written counteroffers on class size or staffing – the two core issues that CTU has identified as being essential to resolve in order to reach an agreement," she tweeted Sunday afternoon.

"It is crucial that CTU provide such counteroffers if we are to move this negotiation to a resolution. Yesterday, we received a partial counteroffer on class size, after having updated our offer on Thursday. And we have yet to receive a counter to our updated offer on staffing, which we put forward on Friday. These negotiations must move more swiftly so that we can get students back into school as fast as possible. Our team has been turning around thoughtful counteroffers at a rapid pace. We are hopeful that CTU will meet that pace today so we can bring this process to a fair and responsible end. We will continue to work hard at the bargaining table. We will update families today once we have certainty about the potential for school on Monday."

The Chicago Teachers Union returned to the picket lines outside schools beginning Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. 

Teachers, aides and support staff on the picket line in front of Walsh Elementary in Pilsen said they don't want to be out here, but will as long as they need to. 

Substitute teacher John Conrad said the vast majority of responses he's gotten have been positive, but he has received criticism from some school bus drivers. Something that struck him by surprise.

Kristy Brooks said she's energized and excited that the two sides have reached a tentative agreement on counselors like herself. She said for the first time in 14 years, she could be assigned counseling duties; which means she won't be pulled out to substitute teach or do for a lunch duty.

"This is working. And it's sad that it had to come to this," she said.

Teachers are expected to hold a rally and march starting at 2 p.m. Monday at Union Park.