Updated: Literal 11th-Hour Deal Averts CPS Strike For Now

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 11, 2016 4:07AM

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Demonstrators in front of Chicago Public Schools headquarters on Madison Street during the Chicago Teachers Union "day of action" on April 1, 2016. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Update: 12:30 AM

Chicago Public Schools will be in session Tuesday. The District and CTU brokered a literal 11th hour deal, announced just before the stroke of midnight.





"The highlights are we have a commitment from the Board of Education to pay raises, layoff recall position, pension pickup and a commitment from the Board on a host of other things that really will make the classrooms a lot better," said CTU President Karen Lewis. "It's not a perfect agreement, but it was good."

Lewis told reporters while that it's not in the contract, there have been rumors of potential TIF money to go to schools. One of the biggest issues in the contract—the pension pickup, also has a resolution. Current employees will keep their pension pickup, while new hires would not. Lewis however said new employees "will get at some point a salary adjustment."

The contract would be for four years if ratified by the House of Delegates and voted for by membership.

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In less than 24 hours, Chicago could see its second major teachers strike of the decade. Representatives from the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union will be at the bargaining table all day Monday, and could stay into the wee hours of the night. Similarly to the last strike in 2012, the union voted overwhelmingly to strike last month and issued a ten day strike notice, marking Oct. 11 as the first day teachers would begin walking a picket line.

“Teachers who have gone without pay increases despite having to worker longer hours and a longer school year have do not want a 7 percent pay cut or other staffing changes that lead to overcrowded classrooms and a lack of teaching resources,” the union said in a Monday morning press release.

Chicago teachers have been working without a contract since 2015. Representatives from the union say that the most recent contract proposal from the District amounts to a pay cut, as teachers would have to contribute more to their pension fund and changes to health insurance payment. Also eerily reminiscent of the 2012 strike is that teachers are still asking for better staffed, funded and equipped classrooms, as they cannot strike over these issues.

“While CTU cannot strike over class sizes and other 4.5 issues, as mandated by state law,” a union statement says, “educators can engage in a work stoppage over working conditions and cuts to pay, health care and other benefits.”

Several community and parent groups have said they will support teachers, should they strike. Last week, the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign delivered a letter to Rahm Emanuel’s office in City Hall by more than 50 parent, neighborhood, and community organizations that said they support the strike. “The mayor’s handpicked school board continues to demand a pay cut from teachers and refuses to guarantee important classroom improvements,” said the group in a press release. Early Monday morning, the group Parents 4 Teachers held a small demonstration in front of Emanuel’s Ravenswood home.

"None of us here want to see a strike, but we also know that the teachers are fighting for what's best for our children and the mayor is holding up a settlement and he has the power to make a settlement,” CPS parent Erica Hade told ABC7. “There's money that he could use in what's called the TIF fund...We think it's about time for the mayor to put our kids ahead of wealthy developers and put that money into our schools.”

Bargaining could go as late as midnight, if a deal isn’t reached, picket lines could begin at local schools as early as 6:00 am. According to NBC5, school buildings will remain open with limited staff for children with nowhere else to go, and free breakfast and lunch will be provided. The CTU will provide free transportation to students for the duration of the strike from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Update: 4:15 PM

As union representatives continue to bargain with the District, the CTU released a polling memo showing public support for both the strike and Chicago teachers.

A poll conducted by Lake Research Partners of 600 likely voters in the 2019 municipal elections from September 24th to 27th shows that a 55 percent majority surveyed support a strike if a deal between the two parties cannot be reached. Only 28 percent oppose a strike, with 17 percent still undecided. Among those surveyed, 86 percent have a favorable view of Chicago teachers and 66 percent have a favorable view of the CTU.

The tired and oft-used line that Chicago is broke and can't afford another strike doesn't set well with voters either. According to the poll, only 17 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that "the money does not exist," and that a strike would put Chicagoans in a "worse position."

Update: 10:45 PM

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CTU President Karen Lewis addresses reporters as a midnight deadline looms before a potential teachers strike. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist.

Representatives from both the CTU and the District spoke briefly to the press shortly after 10:00 p.m., sounding optimistic, but with no concrete words as to whether or not they'll make the midnight deadline.

"I'm always optimistic, I've been very clear about that from the beginning of this process," said CTU President Karen Lewis. "I think the fact that the board has moved and brought in more experts so when we discuss things they have really good things to say back to us. But there's some things we want to make sure we understand, that our teams understand because it's up to them to ultimately take it back to the membership."

After Lewis spoke to reporters, a representative read a joint statement from Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

"Tonight we are committed to remaining at the negotiation table for as long as it takes to reach an agreement with our teachers. To give teachers the raises they deserve, to invest in our schools and most importantly to ensure our children are in school where they belong. We have not yet reached an agreement...but progress has been made."