'Bent Over Backwards': Mayor Lightfoot Says Despite Efforts, CTU Forges Ahead With Strike

Mike Krauser
October 16, 2019 - 10:57 am
Mayor Lightfoot talks about CTU

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- There will be no classes Thursday for more than 300,000 Chicago Public School students.  Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that a strike by the Teacher's Union is a foregone conclusion. 

"We are here to let parents, students, and members of the public know that the Chicago Teachers Union leadership informed our bargaining team that they would recommend to their House of Delegates that a strike should proceed tomorrow," Mayor Lightfoot said. "In light of that declaration, we believe that we owed it to the parents and students of CPS to give them as much advance notice as possible that the CTU has decided to strike."

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Mayor Lightfoot said without question the deal the city put on the table is the best in the Chicago Teachers Union's history. She said they have given, and given, and given on pay, class size, staffing, and dozens of non-compensation issues.

"We have worked hard at the table to listen to the Union's concerns. We have tried to provide the best deal that is fiscally responsible, that is fair for teachers and fair to taxpayers. Without question, the deal we put on the table is the best in the Chicago Teachers Union's history," Lightfoot said. "It provides a 16 percent pay raise for all employees. It would lift up lowest paid workers immediately. On average, support staff would see a 38 percent pay raise over the life of the contract, under the current offer. These raises reflect the value and respect that we have for our educators and school staff."

Mayor Lightfoot said at every turn the city has "bent over backwards" to meet the union's needs on pay, class size, staffing, and more than 80 non-compensation issues - including sanctuary school protections, a commitment to privatization, support for oversized classes, changes to how we serve our special education students, and so much more.

"Since Friday, we have discussed a framework that puts enforceable targets on class sizes in high-poverty schools and staffing level support for personnel in the contract. The Union said these were its two most important issues. They wanted us to put it in writing, and that's exactly what we did. 

"At every turn, we bent over backwards to meet the union's needs and deliver a contract that reflects our shared values and vision for our schools and the support of our students. Despite all this, the Chicago Teachers Union intends to forge ahead with a strike."

Lightfoot said the Union wants to add $2.5 billion more to the CPS budget. She said the Union has been signaling for a long time it intended to strike and issues like compensation for unused sick time and affordable housing are not going to fly. 

"We do not have unlimited funds," Lightfoot said. "Our offer to teachers and support staff is responsible for taxpayers. That's what a wholly independent fact finder, selected by the CTU, found in his report. CTU has not gotten the message. It demands to add another $2.5 billion per year to CPS annual budget - that's billion with a 'b.' That would double the cost of the CTU contract. Agreeing to an extra $2.5 billion a year in costs would be completely irresponsible at any time, but especially in the economic times we face now."

Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle said with all the city has agreed to, especially what the union calls the "big issues" - class size and staffing - "what's left, what's left? I am very disappointed that the Chicago's Teachers Union has decided that the common good, which I agree with, is their reason for a work stoppage."

Mayor Lightfoot said the strike comes at no surprise.

"Look, I think they have been signaling to us for a long time that they intended to strike. We tried, despite that, to work through as many issues as possible, to meet them on as many demands that we responsibly could, but it is not a surprise that this day has come, because through what they have and haven't done at the bargaining table, it seemed obvious that this was the direction they were heading."