CHICAGO (CBS) — Delegates will have the final say with a vote on Wednesday, but the president of the Chicago Teachers Union said Tuesday night that the union is recommending a teachers’ strike.
“Our recommendation is that there be a strike commencing on October 17,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.
Talks will resume on Wednesday morning, but Sharkey said the union will tell the delegates by unanimous vote that it cannot recommend postponing a strike.
“Tonight I have to tell the people in Chicago, the members of the Chicago Teachers Union, and all the people who support public schools in the city that we have not achieved enough in these negotiations to say that we are done fighting,” Sharkey said.
To parents, Sharkey said: “This is not something we do lightly. This is something we do with heaviness in our heart.”
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, teachers, counselors, social workers, and parents spoke out Tuesday night after another round of negotiations.
The union described their negotiations as “a day late and a dollar short.”
“You know, teachers don’t like when people turn in late homework,” Sharkey said.
The union remains dissatisfied with class sizes, as well as the need for social workers, counselors, librarians, nurses, case managers, and other staff.
Teacher Robin Blake-Boose said negotiations “have not gotten anywhere” concerning class size.
“Starting now with 32 students in the classroom – that is not negotiable,” she said. “Class size matters.”
Some CPS teachers say they started this school year even with 50 students in a classroom.
“We are at the 11th hour, and we are not any closer to where we need to be, in order to establish equity for our students,” said teacher Karin Soto.
School social worker Emily Penn was crying as she spoke.
“(Mayor) Lori Lightfoot ran on a campaign of promising more social workers for our students,” she said. “Our students suffer from trauma. They suffer from so many things they need coping with.”
Penn said CPS still refuses to commit in writing to bringing on more social workers.
Chicago Public Schools and CTU representatives have met several times to work on a new contract. Negotiations on both Monday and Tuesday wrapped for the night again with no deal.
Teachers have insisted they wants smaller class sizes and better staffing at schools.
Mayor Lightfoot said Tuesday afternoon that the city has been listening to the concerns of teacher, support staff, and parents throughout the negotiation process.
She said the city has dropped proposed changes to teacher prep time, offered additional support for homeless students, and introduced new language on restorative justice as an alternative to disciplinary action.
“It covered everything the CTU identified as the core issues,” she said.
Lightfoot added that the city is also willing to negotiate about the key CTU issues of staffing and class size.
“I encourage the parties to increase the sense of urgency in the face of negotiations,” she said. “We are running out of time.”
When asked about the possibility of negotiations and agreements made ahead of Thursday’s likely strike, Sharkey said: “If there’s a breakthrough from the mayor, we will certainly bring that to our delegates, but people need to understand the decision-makers in our union are ultimately our members. Members need a chance to read and discuss with each other to give their delegates instructions on how to vote.”
Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Janice Jackson on Tuesday reiterated the school system’s contingency plans for students in the event of a strike.
School buildings will be kept open and students’ safety will be ensured even though regular classroom instruction will be suspended.
A letter to parents issued earlier this month said any student who needs a safe place to go is encouraged to attend his or her regular school – but students will be welcomed at any CPS school building that is appropriate for their age.
Charter and contract schools are not affected by a potential strike and will continue to operate on their normal schedules, the letter said. Families with students at such schools should look for updates or changes from their principal or school/charter operator.
All CPS schools will go on serving breakfast and lunch to students. But all after-school activities will be canceled – including sports, tutoring, field trips, Parent University activities, Local School Council meetings, and other community activities, the letter said.
CPS administrative office staff will be assigned to schools as needed to ensure safety.
CPS also emphasized that Chicago Public Libraries will remain open – along with a limited number of parks, Safe Haven sites, and other community partner sites.
For more information, parents can go to http://cps.edu/contingencyplan.