Chicago Teachers Union Says It’s Prepared To Send Tentative Agreement For Vote, But Wants A Concession From Mayor

Chicago News

CHICAGO (CBS)– The Chicago Teachers Union said late Wednesday that it was prepared to take a tentative agreement to its House of Delegates for a vote.

The CTU confirmed that the House of Delegates will be meeting at 6 p.m. The body has the power to vote to end the strike, which is the longest Chicago teachers’ walkout since 1987.

On Wednesday afternoon, CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said the union “may have reached a monumental agreement and want to convene our (House of Delegates) to suspend the strike.”

But at the same time, Gates criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot for “reducing instructional time,” that is, not making up school days lost by the strike.

CPS said Tuesday that it was evaluating options for making up school days, amid reports that the district has now fallen under the 180-day school year requirement imposed by the state. Previously, Mayor Lightfoot said days missed by a strike would not be made up.

“The district is in the process of gathering a full understanding of potential outcomes and next steps regarding whether or not the district will make up school days missed beyond eight,” CPS said in a statement. “The Board would have to vote to add on any additional student attendance days and the district hopes to have additional information and a decision prior to the November Board meeting.”

On Tuesday, talks between the CTU and the Chicago Public Schools once again ended with no deal – and after what turned out to be a false alarm about the strike possibly ending.

The CTU rank-and-file accused Mayor Lightfoot and CPS on Tuesday of misleading the city by suggesting the House of Delegates had met for a vote – when in fact the Tuesday meeting was only to let its members know where they stand.

In a nighttime news conference, CTU President Jesse Sharkey did say there was further progress Tuesday night. But he said the union is “looking for an agreement to address a wide range of issues” and is holding out until all issues are addressed.

He suggested that an agreement could be in sight, but there are matters that still have to be agreed upon.

“If we can achieve a tentative agreement tomorrow morning, we would bring in our delegates to vote that in the afternoon,” Sharkey said.

Gates said Tuesday night said Mayor Lori Lightfoot had set up a meeting with the expectation that there would be a vote to end the strike within the day – which she called an “unfair expectation” that was intended as a pressure tactic.

Earlier in the evening, Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Janice Jackson urged teachers to accept the deal the city has put on the table — claiming CTU was holding up a deal to end the strike over issues that she says don’t belong in contract negotiations.

The mayor and Jackson emerged from a 3.5-hour meeting with union leadership around 5:15 p.m., without a tentative agreement.

“What we heard is it’s still not good enough,” Lightfoot said.

Jackson said the city had agreed to the union’s demand for $35 million to reduce class sizes, and for $5 million in additional pay for veteran teachers.

Lightfoot said the union wants her support for an elected school board proposal in Springfield and changes to state law that limits the issues teachers are allowed to strike over. Lightfoot said she supports an elected school board, but not the legislation the union is backing, and she said neither issue is a matter for collective bargaining.

She also said she cannot agree to the union’s demands regarding additional teacher preparation time, saying CTU’s proposal would reduce the amount of class time for students. The union has proposed either 30 minutes of additional prep time at the start of the day, or setting aside one day per school quarter for prep time.

“What’s prolonging this strike is the union’s insistence on a shorter school day or a school year, and their insistence that I agree to support their political agenda,” Lightfoot said. “What’s left are three issues that we cannot agree to.”

During the mayor’s update on contract talks, the union sent out a press release accusing CPS of “toying with parents and the entire city by sowing misinformation about the status of negotiations.”

The union accused the mayor and CPS of sending a robocall to parents claiming the House of Delegates might vote to accept a tentative contract agreement, when she knew there was no deal to approve.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, CPS announced it would allow high school football teams to resume practicing during the teachers’ strike, so the teams can meet requirements to qualify for the state playoffs if the strike ends in time for the postseason.

The Illinois High School Association requires football teams to have three practices before they can play a game if the team hasn’t practiced in seven days, and CPS teams haven’t practiced since the strike began on Oct. 17.

It appeared all 19 CPS schools that are playoff eligible were arranging practice Wednesday afternoon or evening so they could get all three required practices before Saturday.

But the strike still would have to end before the playoffs start on Saturday in order for the CPS teams to play. If the strike doesn’t end by the playoffs, all CPS teams would forfeit their games. Although the state playoffs begin Friday night, no CPS teams have games scheduled until Saturday, so it’s unclear exactly when the strike must end for them to play.

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