CHICAGO (CBS) — Tuesday will mark the ninth day of missed class for Chicago Public Schools students.
CPS announced on its website Monday afternoon that classes would again be canceled on Tuesday.
As negotiations between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union continued, new sticking points and some out-of-the-box thinking made headlines Monday night.
As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said the logjam at the moment centers on three things – staffing for special education, pay for veteran teachers, and teacher prep time.
This came as the longest teachers’ strike since 1987 robbed another several hundred student athletes of their postseason. High school girls’ volleyball players were the latest to learn on Monday that their postseason had been scrapped.
But an inventive new idea has surfaced there.
“We go to a small school,” said Tawny Hawthorne of Alcott College Prep. “And you know, chance for us to be seen is a plus.”
State tournaments offer college recruiters for volleyball one-stop shopping to Illinois’ best. But as of Monday, access to round one regionals were off the table for Chicago Public Schools.
“We’re not able to do that, because our teachers are on strike,” said Tawny Hawthorne of Alcott College Prep.
“We’ll have to forfeit,” added Gemma Tipping at Whitney Young.
As long as schools’ doors remain locked, so too do some crucial opportunities.
“I’m still unsure of what going on, honestly,” Tipping said. “There hasn’t been much communication.”
But new on Monday, there may be a lifeline get in front of those recruiters after all.
“Create a one-day, one large event, like an Olympic-style event?” said athlete activist Joe Trost. “It’s a win-win for kids.”
Trost is talking with private and public outlets to create a massive event for thousands of Chicago athletes robbed of regionals, sectionals, and state.
They play, and recruiters get a second chance at that one-stop-shop.
“Thousands of kids throughout all the different programs – you’re talking, you’re talking golf, tennis, volleyball, soccer – you know, could be football later this week.
Talks are early, but optimistic.
“I would be so interested to see how that would turn out,” Hawthorne said.
And we were interested in one more thing – are the student athletes really so positive amidst all the teacher turbulence?
“They’re really pulling it out,” Tipping said. “And I support the teachers obviously. I support them. It just sucks that we can’t play.”
Tye asked Tipping whether people tell her to say she supports the teachers, or whether she really believes it. Her answer was, “Maybe a mix of both.”
For non-athletes, there is a whole host of issues too. Prepping for standardized testing, students say, has been tough – and getting teacher recommendations and transcripts for college applications has also been made harder – because school offices remain closed during this crucial period for college prep.
Meanwhile, negotiations for a teachers’ contract were ongoing as of just before 6 p.m. Monday.
CPS chief education officer LaTanya McDade late Monday reiterated the city’s claim that it was offering the union a generous contract. She said the contract allots $70 million for staffing – including guarantees of a nurse and social worker in every school – and $25 million to reduce class sizes.
Those provisions are in writing in the city’s contract proposal as the CTU asked, McDade said.
But the union and the city remain divided on certain issues, including the CTU’s calls for more teacher prep time.
“This is nine days of lost instructional time, which should not be acceptable to anyone, and we’re working really hard to get our students back into the classroom,” McDade said.
Meanwhile, the CTU took a new shot at Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday, accusing the mayor of bragging about providing CPS with $100 million in surplus funds from Tax Increment Financing districts – but then grabbing those funds back for pension payments the city owes and for police officers in schools. The union said the city already paid for the officers in schools.
Tax increment financing involves freezing property tax dollars for schools, parks, and other taxing districts in a given zone for at least 23 years, so that all property tax increases afterward go into a separate fund. The funds are intended to bankroll improvements in struggling city neighborhoods, but published reports point out that there has been a surplus in TIF funding in recent years and much of it has gone to CPS.
Since back when Mayor Richard M. Daley was still in office, TIF district funds have also come under fire as slush funds that can be used as the mayor pleases. The CTU used the term “slush fund” in accusing Lightfoot Monday also – saying the mayor is now “forcing CPS to shoulder pension costs that by law the City is required to pay, and bankroll police in schools that the City previously paid for, despite serious issues related to their training and oversight and a growing call to end their presence in schools.”
“This mayor stood in front of the people of this city and claimed she was giving CPS over $100 million in TIF surplus funds from her slush fund—and promptly clawed back those dollars in violation of the law and past practices,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a news release.
Sharkey said the school communities need the TIF surplus funds and are owed them, and accused Lightfoot of taking part in a “despicable shell game.”
“This is literally worse than what Rahm did to our students and our schools,” Sharkey said in the release.
It also seemed on Sunday like the battle between CPS and the CTU was getting even more contentions and acrimonious. At a news conference Sunday night, Mayor Lightfoot did not hide her frustration with the union.
“We put everything we could, responsibly, on the table, in an attempt to get a deal done. But we have no deal to announce today, and for that I am terribly disappointed,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot called the deal the city was offering “the most generous in CPS history.”
“This is, by any estimation, and incredible offer – and despite all of this, the CTU has not accepted it,” Lightfoot said. “We are enormously disappointed that CTU simply cannot take yes for an answer.”
But CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates reiterated the union’s claim that the CTU’s latest counterproposal is separated by the city’s offer by only $38 million per year – about half a percent of the district’s $7.7 billion annual budget.
Meanwhile, it appears that there is a green light for a new agreement between the city and Service Employees International Union Local 73 – which represents custodians, bus aides, security guards, and special education personnel. The union represents about 7,500 school support employees in all.
A deal with that union was announced on Sunday. But the deal has no effect on the teachers’ strike, and SEIU Local 73 members said they would still be back on the picket lines with teachers on Monday.