by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — After meeting with Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey for about two hours, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Chicago Public Schools would make up five school days lost to the teachers’ strike, and classes would resume on Friday.
“The teachers will be back in class, the students will be back in class tomorrow,” Lightfoot said Thursday afternoon at City Hall.
It was not immediately clear how the district would make up the five days.
“We’ll be working through those logistics,” Lightfoot said.
Teachers had been on strike since Oct. 17, and students have missed 11 days of class.
— Dana Kozlov (@DanaCBS2) October 31, 2019
Before the teachers’ strike started, Lightfoot had said she did not plan on making up any lost days. After the teachers agreed to a tentative five-year contract deal on Wednesday, they said they were continuing their strike until Lightfoot agreed to give all those days back.
“If they’re willing to come to the table in a spirit of compromise, I’m certainly willing to listen,” Lightfoot said Thursday morning.
Hours later, she met with CTU President Jesse Sharkey to negotiate a compromise, emerging with an agreement on five makeup days.
“In the interests of our students and our parents who have been suffering, it was important to me to make sure that we got our kids back in class. Enough is enough. And so in the spirit of compromise, we agreed. It was a hard-fought discussion. It took us a long time to get there, but I think this is the right thing,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor said she invited Sharkey to make a joint announcement on their agreement, but he declined. Sharkey said he didn’t feel like “doing a celebration lap” with Lightfoot.
— Dana Kozlov (@DanaCBS2) October 31, 2019
“That’s not what our members need to be looking at. That’s not what the people of the city need to be seeing. We have a labor accord, and we’re pleased about that,” he said. “We achieved a lot of things. There’s some things we didn’t achieve, but it’s not a day for photo ops or victory laps.”
CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates accused the mayor of punishing teachers by not agreeing to more makeup days.
“Today should come as no surprise that she has taken out her anger on our members and only provided five days back,” she said. “In the history of return to work agreements, you are never docked these many days.”
Davis Gates said the union agreed to fewer makeup days than it wanted because teachers wanted to get back to work.
“They want to make sure that their students get their instructional days, and so we were pushed up against a wall,” she said.
Both the union and the mayor refused to describe the agreement on makeup days to end the strike as a win.
“Nobody wins in a circumstance like this. We put a historic deal on the table; we’ve done I think very good things for our teachers, our staff, and for our students; but I don’t think about this for wins for me personally. This has been a hardship on way too many people across our city, particularly our young people,” Lightfoot said.
Davis Gates said the only win out of the contract negotiations was the tentative deal itself, which she said would provide necessary benefits for students.
“Our school communities will have a nurse, a social worker five days a week in each school. We will lower class size and have limits. Students who need homeless services will have a coordinator. Students who require sanctuary in our school communities receive it. These are particularly substantial wins for our city and the students that are in them,” she said.
The union had accepted a tentative five-year contract agreement with CPS on Wednesday, but had refused to end the strike until Lightfoot agreed to make up the lost days. Lightfoot had said she would not agree to the union’s “take it or leave it demand” to make up all 11 days, and sat down with Sharkey on Thursday to hammer out the compromise.
The tentative contract agreement between CTU and CPS includes a total raise of 16 percent over 5 years, plus additional raises based on teacher seniority. The deal also includes provisions to hire hundreds of nurses and social workers, phased in over the life of the contract; new limits on class sizes – 28 for kindergarten through 3rd grade, 31 for 4th-8th grade, and 25 to 31 students for high school, depending on the type of class.
Union officials said it also includes terms to provide coordinators for students who require homeless services, and sanctuary school protections for immigrant and refugee teachers and families.
The union has 10 days to vote on whether to ratify the tentative contract.