CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago teachers’ strike stretched into its fourth day on Sunday, and it is set to stretch into its third school day on Monday.
The Chicago Public Schools confirmed on Twitter Sunday night that classes were canceled at all schools on Monday. School buildings will remain open to students, as they have since the beginning of the strike.
CTU and SEIU are currently on strike, which means classes and after school activities are canceled tomorrow, Monday, 10/21. School buildings will be open for students who need a safe place to stay during the day. https://t.co/q0nQPR7VLL pic.twitter.com/SgxWpUqBR6
— ChicagoPublicSchools (@ChiPubSchools) October 20, 2019
That means more than 300,000 kids at more than 500 different schools Will not be reporting to class for a third straight day.
CPS reiterated its current offer in a letter to parents from Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson.
“Under our current offer, an average teacher will see their salary rise to nearly $100,000,” Jackson wrote. “Critical support staff such as clerks, nurses, and teacher assistants will receive raises exceeding 20% over five years, and many will see their paychecks rise 7 to 14% immediately.”
Jackson added that CPS has “heard” the Chicago Teachers Union when it has demanded its proposals on staffing and class size in writing.
“Our class size offer would allocate over $10 million to support additional staffing for the relatively small number of overcrowded classrooms in the district, and our staffing proposal would go above and beyond the public commitment Mayor Lightfoot and I made over the summer to hire hundreds of additional social workers, nurses and special education case managers,” Jackson wrote. “Through both of these proposals, we have worked to create solutions that will promote equity and ensure resources are directed to the schools that need them most.”
In a news conference Sunday night, the union outlined what it called some “wins.”
“We’ve bargained all weekend. We were here yesterday. We were back today, because we take this process very seriously,” said CTU Chief of Staff Jennifer Johnson.
She continued: “We have seen movement and we’ve made some wins. It shouldn’t take being on strike to get the needs of our students met, but again, as we’ve said repeatedly, we are all looking for a just contract.”
Among the victories the union cited were promises with regard to counselors. CPS school counselor Kristy Brooks said CPS has agreed to a requirement that school counselors actually have to be assigned counseling work.
“You are going to have better access to your school counselors now,” Brooks said.
Brooks said there still will not be anywhere near enough counselors in the CPS system, but she said she was overjoyed with the step forward.
The CTU also declared victories when it came to equity for homeless students, also called transitional students. They will be placed with a dedicated person to help them transition and be successful, said CPS’ Lucille Thompson.
Audubon Elementary preschool teacher Arathi Jayaram had some graphic descriptions of the problems she encounters as she celebrated another victory – what she called a more level playing field between tuition-based preschool programs and the free Preschool for All program.
State law requires a 10-to-1 adult-to-child ratio for every preschool, and Jarayam said that law has not been enforced or followed in Chicago – sometimes with embarrassing consequences.
“I had students in my classroom who would pee their pants and be left in their pee for a while, because there was no other adult to take them to the bathroom,” Jayaram said.
She added that currently, tuition-based students are allowed to nap for a whole hour, while Preschool for All students get only half an hour of quiet time. Now, Jarayam said, all preschool students will be allowed to nap.
But Johnson said there was still a lot more work to be done, particularly when it comes to commitment for class sizes.
“CPS has to invest real dollars in ensuring that the student-teacher ratio in high-need schools is addressed,” she said.
The CTU also disputed the claim that the city’s proposed raises would make them six-figure earners on average.
“It’s not true. We’ve debunked this multiple times,” Johnson said.
At one point, a Blackhawks fan walked out of the United Center and right into the news conference. He spoke up in support of the teachers.
“These teachers, these are mothers. They have children in the school system that doesn’t care about them,” said Jay Adas of Schaumburg.
Much to the delight of CTU members, Adas did not hold back.
“They care about these students. The head politicians do not. So you need to do whatever you need to do to support these brothers, these sisters, everybody in this situation” he said.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reported, the union said the salary average is at least $15,000 less. They also said all the progress should not have had to come in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a strike.
“We didn’t receive responsive counters in writing until the first and second days of a strike,” Johnson said. “If we had received responsive counterproposals in writing eight, seven, six, five months ago, this could have been done.”
Negotiators for CPS and CTU began bargaining again at 11 a.m. Sunday at Malcolm X College and ended late in the day. Negotiations will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
On Saturday, the union also reported progress, saying the city has agreed to place a moratorium on any new charter schools.
Meanwhile, city officials said they were still waiting on written counterproposals on class-size and staffing levels. Those are two of the core issues that have kept the two sides at loggerheads for 10 months.
CTU leaders more than once this weekend said the city has made commitments to reducing class sizes and increasing staffing, but the union wants to include language to enforce those provisions.
“A provision where there’s a promise to hire, but there’s no mechanism for what happens if that promise isn’t kept, that’s not so good for us,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Saturday. “We have bitter experience with what happens if we can’t actually enforce the stuff that we have.”
CPS students have missed two days of classes so far due to the strike, and Monday will be the third. Both the mayor and the union have pointed fingers at each other for the pace of contract talks.
CTU has accused the school district of stonewalling them, calling negotiations “slow and frustrating.”
Sources said face-to-face negotiations lasted fewer than seven hours on Saturday. The mayor said she would like to see the sessions go longer — 10 hours per day.
“We’ve got to be at the table to be able to get a deal done,” Lightfoot said.
CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates, however, said across-the-table negotiating has been going on now for months, but the city refused to negotiate on several key issues until just before teachers went on strike.
“It didn’t start yesterday, it didn’t start last week, it started 10 months ago. We came to the table in earnest with proposals,” Gates said. “We were rebuffed, we were told no, we were given the runaround.”
Gates, whose three kids are also out of school right now, says she can empathize with parents dealing with the hardship of a strike.
“I am hopeful that our movement can continue at the table and that we’ll get somewhere on getting this contract,” Gates said.
Meanwhile Sunday, the strike against the nation’s third largest school system did come up in the presidential campaign.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenM.a< spoke Sunday at an event organized by the United Federation of Teachers, the union representing New York City teachers. The event was held at the New York Hilton on Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
In his address, Biden spoke about teachers’ strikes and called them courageous, and he specifically brought up the strike by members of the Chicago Teachers’ Union that began this past Thursday.
“It was pretty novel 60 years ago. It took some courage to decide to go on strike; walk out. We celebrate the bravery of those teachers today and the school professionals that went with them,” Biden said. “But we also know that no educator wants to go on strike. It’s the last damn thing you want to do. The teachers’ strike in Chicago right now, you know every one of them would much rather be in the classroom, for real. For real – with their kids.”