Chicago, Illinois. 23rd Oct, 2019. Chicago Public School Teachers, students, staff, and supporters rallying in Daley Plaza for a fifth day of striking, after a weekend of stalled contract negotiations with the city. Credit: Chris Riha/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

11-Day strike ends: Chicago Teachers Union reaches agreement with the City

3 mins read

After months of contentious bargaining followed by an 11-day strike, the Chicago Teachers Union agreed to a tentative five-year contract and five days compensation for missed days during their work stoppage.

Classes resume on Friday for Chicago Public Schools after the city and the CTU concluded negotiations. “In the interest in our students and the parents who have been suffering, it was important to me that we got our kids back in class,” said Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, in a brief press conference after negotiations ended at City Hall.

She continued. “In the spirit of compromise, we agreed. It was a hard fought discussion. It took a lot of time to get there, but I think this is the right thing, ultimately for our city. And I’m glad this phase is over.

Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Teachers Union, added that there needs to be a focus on “how do we make sure that we have a safe, nurturing environment for young people to be able to thrive.”

Lightfoot said that she invited CTU leader, Jesse Sharkey to “do a joint announcement, [but] he declined.”

However, Sharkey said in a CTU blog, “This historic agreement recognizes and values the voice and experience of Chicago educators, and turns the page and provides a new pathway for CPS and our rank-and-file members to do right by students and families.” He went on. “Sadly, the same can’t be said about the mayor’s decision to not restore instructional time to our students.”

The union wanted all days restored.  “By not restoring days of instruction to our students lost during the strike, the mayor is making it clear that she is more concerned about politics than the well-being of students,” argued Sharkey.

Regardless, both parties agree that the 41-page new contract is a landmark agreement. Chicago’s city council by Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor supported the strike, stating in a Jacobin Magazine article, “We want quality schools for our young people,” she says, “and their working conditions are our children’s learning conditions. It’s just common sense. For too long, they’ve been able to play us against each other.”

| Read Nicole Bovell’s story on Closure of Chicago schools make it difficult for displace students |

Teachers demonstrating in front of Chicago’s City Hall during 11-day strike.

Recovery in the aftermath

When asked what she learned from the strike, Lightfoot responded that she needed “ a moment to reflect on it.” Others, such as teachers to parents, must kick their schedules back into high gear. Now that classes resume on Friday, school districts must make up instruction for lost days. In some cases, colleagues must amend ties that strained during negotiations. The passage of the contract was tight: union delegates approved the agreement by a tight 362-242. Gregory Michie, a public school teacher tweeted: CTU delegates voted to accept tentative agreement to end our strike tonight, but I’m really upset about the way it went down. Not gonna say more than that right now. But not happy.

Parents and students recover in other ways. Julie Dworkin, a parent who supported the teacher strike, asked family and friends to watch her two children in CPS, according to a Reuters report. Dworkin said, “I’m thrilled that the strike is over and I think the things that the teachers won are very significant and they’re going to have a big impact on the quality of education.”

Although a number of students stood in solidarity with teachers, some of the lost time was critical for athletes. While CPS football teams can play in state playoffs, the cross country teams appealed to the Illinois High School Association’s to participate in the state track meet, though they missed the regionals due to the strike.

As schools get back into operations, they will see changes to their operations that hopefully will aid in enhancing CPS. CTU lists what they see are key aspects of their tentative agreement:

  • Enforceable staffing increases: 209 additional social worker positions, a social worker assigned to every school, a case manager assigned to every school and 250 additional nursing positions by the end of the contract.
  • Staffing Pipeline: $2.5 million in recruitment and training programs for clinicians, $2 million in tuition and licensure for nurses, increased investments in “grow your own” teacher pipeline programs and 50 percent tuition reimbursement for English Language and bilingual endorsement programs.
  • $35 million annually to reduce oversized K-12 classrooms across the district, prioritizing schools serving the most vulnerable students.
  • Sports Committee with an annual budget of $5 million (33 percent increase in annual funding) for increases to coaching stipends and new equipment/resources.
  • January 2019 0.8 percent increase in health care contribution rate rescinded as of 7/1/19; no plan changes to health insurance benefits and reductions in co-pays for mental health services and physical therapy.
  • Bank of sick days earned after July 1, 2012, increased from 40 to 244 days.
  • Development of special education Individual Education Plans (IEP) made solely by the IEP team; principals required to use substitutes or release time to provide adequate time for special education duties to the extent possible; common preparation periods with general education teachers where possible; special ed teachers last to be called to cover classes; $2.5 million annual fund to reduce workload.

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