CHICAGO (CBS) — Striking teachers marched in the Loop and in Grant Park on Friday, a day after both the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools reported progress in a strike that has now gone on for seven school days.
The strike has been going on since Thursday of last week. With seven days of classes having been canceled as of Friday, the length of the strike matches that of the 2012 work stoppage.
With negotiations expected to continue over the weekend, an announcement on whether school will be canceled on Monday of next week was not expected Friday.
On Friday afternoon, CTU members rallied at Buckingham Fountain and then gathered on Balbo Drive, heading east toward Lake Shore Drive. Police held a line keeping the teachers from crossing or getting onto Lake Shore Drive, and they eventually turned back west on Balbo Drive and then north on Michigan Avenue.
Hours later, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the union had seen some progress during a long day of bargaining. With only a few issues remaining, the CTU and CPS have reached “stuff that matters the most, but is the hardest,” Sharkey said.
Sharkey said there were no “critical breakthroughs,” but he said the two sides are at a point where there is “not a huge number of issues.”
“Hopefully, we can get over the hump,” Sharkey said. “But I will say that it still requires some resources, and still requires some will, from the political leadership of the city.”
Negotiations will continue through the weekend, Sharkey said.
Meanwhile, CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson late Thursday night issued an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times declaring that she wanted the same thing as the teachers.
Jackson wrote that when she started as a $36,000-per-year teacher in 2000, only 47 percent of CPS students graduated from high school – while the number is now close to 80 percent. But she also write that “this academic progress isn’t promised and is easily jeopardized if not treated with care.”
Jackson added that while the school system was “on the brink of insolvency” just over two years ago, education funding reform has redirected more than $700 million to fund and keep stable the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.
“And before anyone attempts to call teachers greedy, let me be the first to say I’m proud our teachers are well compensated,” Jackson wrote. “In fact, our current offer will invest approximately $500 million to raise the average teacher’s salary to $100,000, give our lowest-wage workers, such as bus aides and custodians, double-digit raises, and provide critical support staff such as clerks, nurses, and teacher assistants raises of 38% over five years.”
Jackson also wrote that she agreed with the CTU’s focus on equity for schools around the city – and said CPS has put offers in writing to provide full-time nurses and social workers for every school each day, and to focus on high-need schools to get critical support staff first.
“This labor contract is not a magic pill that will fix our issues overnight,” Jackson wrote. “But I promise you thins. We will fix it and we will fix it together. It will not happen in the next few days, weeks, nor years, but this work will get done.”
The CTU did not respond to Jackson’s op-ed on its Facebook or Twitter page, focusing instead Friday on its demands and its rallies – which included an impromptu house music dance exercise at one point.
We had a pep rally today with food, games, and two amazing DJ’s who supported us on the picket line! Thank you @DJCaShEra & @kane_one_ #PutItInWriting #FairContractNow #CTUSEIUstrike pic.twitter.com/SKYfgarErJ
— Dave Stieber (@D_Stieber) October 25, 2019
On Wednesday, thousands of CTU members and their supporters flooded streets downtown for a rally while Mayor Lori Lightfoot was presenting her city budget address.
Even before CPS announced the cancellation of classes on Friday, CTU and school support workers represented by SEIU Local 73 had scheduled a rally for Saturday at Union Park, hosted by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, an apparent signal the union wasn’t expecting a deal before the weekend.
— ChicagoTeachersUnion (@CTULocal1) October 24, 2019
The mayor has repeatedly said CPS does not have any more money than it already has put on the table to meet the union’s demands for pay, class sizes, and staffing.
Meanwhile Friday, the strike will not stop the football teams at Simeon Career Academy and two other schools from playing in postseason games after all.
The Illinois High School Association announced the decision Friday afternoon to loosen restrictions into playoffs after hearing an appeal from Simeon. The appeal took two IHSA rules to task: the requirement of playing eight varsity games prior to post-season, and the requirement that a team have three practice days before competition if its practices were canceled for seven days or more.
The IHSA Board waived the eight-game requirement for Simeon, at 8147 S. Vincennes Ave. in Chatham, Phoenix Military Academy, at 145 S. Campbell Ave. on the Near West Side; and Chicago Military Academy, at 3519 S. Giles Ave. at Bronzeville, making them eligible to be placed in the playoff field on Saturday.
— Chris Tye (@TVTye) October 25, 2019
However, the board voted against waiving the three-practice requirement, meaning the teams must resume practice by Oct. 30 in order to be eligible to play the first round of playoff games. That means Chicago Public Schools must resume classes by that date. Friday marks the ninth calendar day of the teachers’ strike, as teachers demand more resources and controlled class sizes.
“Due to circumstances beyond their control, the three schools in question found themselves lacking the requisite number of games to participate in the State Series despite having otherwise qualified,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in a news release. “Given how many student-athletes have been negatively impacted by this strike, at the very least, it was a positive to eliminate some of the unknowns as it relates to the timeline for CPS football teams to participate in the IHSA playoffs.”
But the news wasn’t good for all the CPS sports teams on Friday. A judge ruled Friday that the Jones College Prep cross-country team may not take part in state regionals.