CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson announced late Thursday that the union had provided them a counterproposal for a deal to end the impasse about in-person schooling and the strike threat.
“Late this afternoon, we received a counter proposal from CTU leadership and we are working on a response,” Lightfoot and Jackson said in a statement.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Mainly Clear And Not As Cold Sunday Night
This came after the mayor said earlier in the day that her patience with Chicago Teachers Union leadership has run out, and she wanted to get a deal done to reopen Chicago Public Schools by the end of the day — blaming the union for the lack of an agreement so far.
“We need to get this deal done and get it done today, without further delay,” she said. “Yesterday, there were a series of steps backward that were simply not productive, and we have conveyed that problem to the CTU leadership in the strongest terms possible.”
The mayor said CPS spent hours on Wednesday waiting for CTU leadership to provide their latest proposal.
“We are still waiting on the CTU,” she said. “All we need now is for CTU leadership to get serious and meet us at the finish line.”
More than four hours after the mayor’s press conference, the union issued a statement saying, before union members voted last month to authorize teachers to stay remote until there’s an agreement with the district to reopen schools, the district spent months refusing to negotiate a safe reopening plan.
“Our union begged for earnest conversations with CPS leadership for months. But these conversations are now taking place as parties remain in constant communication and we are here, in the 11th hour, working towards full agreement,” the union said. “Our goal is, and always has been, a mutually agreed up on safe reopening plan for our schools. These decisions, however, cannot be made unilaterally in a vacuum. They require buy-in from all stakeholders in our school communities, and we will continue to lift democracy in soliciting feedback from educators and families in bargaining for the safe return that our students deserve.”
COOLING OFF –> ICE COLD:
— Chris Tye (@TVTye) February 4, 2021
Wednesday night, CPS said it was extending a “cooling-off period” during the negotiations for another day, but Lightfoot said she won’t be extending it again beyond Thursday night, even though Friday is a scheduled day off for CPS students — putting the threat of a strike off until Monday.
Lightfoot said she expects students to be back in classrooms “as soon as possible,” but didn’t give a date, or say what the district plans to do if it does not reach an agreement with the union before the end of the day on Thursday.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have gotten it done yesterday, or Tuesday, or Monday, but today is the day. My patience is up,” she said.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson reiterated that remote learning does not work for every student, and said minority students in particular have struggled to keep up while learning at home.
“I hear from countless Black and Latinx families whose children are falling behind, and who are not thriving nor managing throughout this process,” she said.
As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, the impact on students compounds. No school puts just approved sports seasons in jeopardy, and grades already suffering.
CBS 2 discovered that while the number of A grades have gone up in reading this remote-learning year, everything else suffered. B’s and C’s dropped, while D’s and F’s grew by 3%.READ MORE: At Least 20 Shot, 2 Killed In Weekend Violence In Chicago
It is a nearly identical story for math during this remote year compared to 2020.
Jackson said there’s a mountain of data proving schools can reopen safely during the pandemic with proper safety protocols in place, so there’s no reason the district and the union couldn’t have reached a deal by now.
“At this point finding a public health expert who opposes in person learning would be like finding a scientist that doesn’t believe in climate change,” Jackson said.
The mayor said Thursday that CPS and CTU have reached tentative agreements on five of eight areas — including ventilation, safety and health protocols, testing, contact tracing, and joint safety committees. But the two sides have yet to reach a deal on a vaccination plan, accommodations for teachers who live with someone with an underlying health condition, or metrics for closing schools again if cases start to rise again.
“Today is the day we need a definitive answer on all the outstanding issues,” Lightfoot said. “We can’t keep taking steps back. We can’t wait for hours and hours and hours, and have no response other than, ‘We’re working on it.’ That’s not good enough anymore.”
Mayor Lightfoot also complained on Thursday that the CTU has invoked calls to defund the police while at the bargaining table – distractions she said are preventing resolution.
The union also sent an open letter to CPS parents on Thursday, saying “red flag after red flag has been raised” all through the past several months.
“We’ve seen CPS leadership fail to meet its own meager safety protocols, and fail to provide the PPE, deep cleaning and adequate ventilation it promised,” the union said in its letter.
CTU also said the mayor and CPS are still threatening to lock out teachers who refuse to show up in person.
“We sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. Thousands of our members are also CPS parents. We love your children. We desperately want to be back in classrooms with them, but we are not willing to accept the inevitable illness and death a reckless reopening will inflict on our city,” the union wrote.
However, Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city has been making “excellent progress” in key COVID metrics, with the average positivity rate down to 5.4%, and approximately 539 new cases per day, compared to a rate of 16% and 3,000 new cases per day during the peak of the pandemic.
“This is the best shape our city has been in from a COVID perspective since the beginning of October,” she said.
Arwady also reiterated that, although there have been dozens of cases of coronavirus reported at schools since the first groups of teachers and students returned to classrooms last month, the vast majority of those involved only one case at an individual school, and said there have been no signs of outbreaks within schools.
“We know how to be careful about COVID. We know that you can’t have a completely normal in-school experience. You have to have masks. You have to have distancing. You have to have pods so that limited numbers of students are interacting. You have to pay extra attention to cleaning and disinfection,” she said. “Schools are just not the source of COVID spread like people thought they would be a year ago. The science continues to evolve, but at this point the answers could not be more clear.”
Lightfoot stressed that CPS already has agreed to allow teachers to work remotely if they have underlying health conditions, or are the primary caregiver for someone who does. She said the union has asked for additional accommodations for about 2,000 union members who live with someone who has an underlying health condition, but is not their primary caretaker.
“We have offered a very specific plan, including getting dedicated vaccine resources for them so that they can get vaccinated quickly and address issues in the household,” she said.
CBS 2’s Chris Tye contributed to this report.MORE NEWS: Boy, 11, Shot And Wounded In West Pullman; He Is Second Child Shot In Area Within Week
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