CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale said Monday morning it’s “unconscionable” that Chicago Public Schools students are being kept out of class for a 6th day, due to the teachers’ strike, despite a tentative agreement between negotiators for CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union.
In an interview on the CBS 2 Morning News, Vitale – who has personally been at the table for contract talks – said he was “very upset, very disappointed” at the union’s decision to continue the strike, despite the tentative agreement.
“They’ve had an agreement since Friday. Plenty of time to look at it; even if they want to keep looking at it, there’s no reason for our kids not to be back in school while they examine it. And that’s the most frustrating thing,” Vitale said.
Although negotiators for the two sides have agreed on a tentative deal, CTU delegates decided Sunday to continue with the strike while they review the proposed deal and discuss the pact with individual teachers.
Sunday evening, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said delegates had decided they needed more time to review the tentative deal – which was not put into writing until Sunday morning – before deciding whether to call off the strike.
“They need the opportunity to have the time to do that, and I’d like to give it to them,” Lewis said. “I think when they parse through, and actually look at some of the features of it, then they will feel a little bit more comfortable, but not having language for them on Friday was hard for them.”
Individual teachers would later have to vote to ratify the deal.
CTU’s House of Delegates won’t meet again until Tuesday – partly because of the Jewish high holiday of Rosh Hashanah – meaning the earliest classes could resume would be Wednesday. However, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said city lawyers will ask a judge to issue an injunction to order an immediate end to the strike, so kids can get back to class as soon as possible.
Vitale said, “it’s really unconscionable that [the Chicago Teachers Union] put our students out of school while they look at a contract that’s been agreed to by their leaders. I mean, how do you explain that?”
Lewis said, while CTU negotiators have agreed to a tentative deal, it’s “not a good deal,” and union delegates should not be pressured into ending the strike before they have a chance to review the proposal for themselves.
“This is the deal we got. This is not a good deal by any stretch of the imagination; Not to what our members are compared to having,” Lewis said. “I have a certain amount of integrity. I’m not going to sit up and hold up a book and say this is the greatest thing since sliced bread because I’m supposed to sell it. I’m not a marketer.”
Vitale said the school board and the Emanuel administration are determined to work to get kids back in school as soon as possible. The mayor has already ordered the city’s corporation counsel and the CPS general counsel to go to court to seek an injunction to end the strike immediately.
Vitale said the district and the union have had an agreement on salary and health care benefits since early last week, but the roadblock to a deal – before Friday’s agreement – had been a new teacher evaluation system and procedures for recalling laid off teachers when new positions are available. He said it’s illegal for teachers to strike over those issues.
However, until now, the Emanuel administration has decided not to take the union to court over that issue.
“They know that these two issues are out of the bounds of strikeability – that’s the evaluation, and the recall provisions – but, in good faith, we tried to negotiate with them on those elements, and avoid all of that activity, and get our kids back in school,” Vitale said.
He said teachers would always have the option of going back on strike if they ultimately decide the tentative deal is not acceptable.
“If they decide they want to go out later, I suppose they could, but to keep our kids out of school is just unconscionable,” Vitale said. “There’s no reason for the kids not to be back in school while they look at this thing.”
Lewis said teachers “very well could” decide to reject the deal and tell negotiators to go back to the bargaining table, “but they need the opportunity to have the time to make those decisions.”
“They’re not happy with the agreement. They would like it to be actually a lot better for us than it is,” she said. “I mean, clearly a contract is always a set of negotiations. No sides are ever completely happy, but our members are not happy, and they want to have the opportunity to talk to their members to see; they still want to know, i there anything more they can get. We’ve told them, basically, that we feel this is the deal the board had.”
It’s unclear exactly when the Emanuel administration will be in court to seek an injunction to end the strike, or how soon a judge might rule on that request.