CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools resume classes on Tuesday – following on the heels of a school year that saw an all-time low dropout rate, but also amid discord between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union.

CPS announced last month that the one-year dropout rate for 2018-2019 was 6 percent – indicating that more students are staying in school than ever before. Since 2011, the one-year dropout rate is down 46 percent, CPS said.

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African-American and Latino boys experienced the biggest one-year dropout rate improvement for 2019, CPS said.

But amid the good news for students comes some discontent among teachers. Last week, the Chicago Teachers Union rejected an independent fact finder’s contract recommendation, setting up a possible strike if they cannot reach a deal with CPS.

“If we don’t make more progress, this is a union that’s prepared to strike,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Monday of last week.

The union now may vote to authorize a strike at any time, but is legally required to wait 30 days to walk out once they vote.

If a strike did go ahead, it would be the first since 2012.

The recommendation that the union rejected involved an offer to boost pay checks – specifically a 16 percent pay increase over five years. Teachers are asking for more than money.

The fact finder’s also calls for a 1 percent increase in health care contributions. The raises recommended by the fact finder would cost approximately $351 million, according to the mayor’s office.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the fact finder’s recommendation amounts to a good deal – higher than her proposed 14 percent salary hike over five years.

But the Chicago Teachers Union says the hang-up is bigger than money.

They want smaller class sizes, and more special education teachers, social workers, and librarians. Four or five years ago, CPS had 400 librarians, and next school year the district will have only 108, according to Sharkey.

But no strike will be happening to affect the first day of school, or anytime soon. If the teachers did authorize a strike, they would have to wait 30 days before actually walking off the job.

Sharkey said a strike authorization vote likely wouldn’t happen until after the school year starts, so a strike wouldn’t be able to happen until October.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Transit Authority is offering free rides on all trains and buses Tuesday for all CPS students from kindergarten through grade 12 and accompanying adults.


Numerous events and giveaways for kids were also held ahead of the start of the school year. Some kids in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood received some fresh haircuts, as part of Acclivus’ 18th Annual Back to School event in conjunction with Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and state Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

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Along with the complimentary haircuts, students also received backpacks filled with school supplies.