The Chicago Teachers Union and city officials negotiated through the weekend but couldn’t reach a deal. So no one knows when 25,000 educators in the country’s third-biggest school district will return to school.
“Our team has been turning around thoughtful counteroffers at a rapid pace. We are hopeful that CTU will meet that pace … so we can bring this process to a fair and responsible end.”
But the mayor and Chicago Public Schools say it’s just not realistic to fund everything the union wants.
“CPS is not flush with cash,” the mayor said. “The fact is there is no more money. Period.”
‘Tragedies waiting to happen’
Nine of 10 majority-black schools have no librarians, and there aren’t enough bilingual teachers in a district that’s “nearly half Latinx,” the union said.
And many schools don’t have a full-time nurse.
Last year, Kosuth had to split his time among six schools.
“It was impossible for me to give the kind of care that I wanted to give to my students,” he said.
This year, he’s working at three different schools. “But I’m still just as busy.”
Hiring more social workers, counselors, nurses, bilingual teachers and librarians is just part of of the union’s demands.
Teachers also want smaller class sizes, higher pay for all school employees and more teacher prep time during the school day.
More than 41,000 Chicago elementary school students are trying to learn in classes with 30 students or more, the union said. Of those, 5,290 are in classes with at least 35 students.
And from the elementary to high school levels, CTU said, some classes have more than 40 students.
A bit of progress
“We will also ensure every school has a full-time nurse by 2024,” CPS said.
It said it would also commit another 200 social workers and special education case managers for the highest-need schools over the next three years.
But the challenge isn’t just funding those new positions — it’s finding enough quality applicants.
Last month, the union asked for “CPS to hire more than 1,000 new employees by October 1, 2019, across several hard-to-find specialties,” the school district said.
“The (union’s) proposal also calls for hiring approximately 3,000 more employees over the next two years at a cost of more than $800 million. Even if CPS could realistically afford such a commitment, it would be nearly impossible to meet those hiring goals.”
After lengthy negotiations Saturday, the teachers’ union said both sides are getting closer to an agreement — but sticking points remain.
“We have tentative agreements on eight different items — two in particular, I think, are huge,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said.
“One goes with the pipeline for teachers of color,” which could help reverse “the precipitous decline of black teachers,” she said.
“The other one that’s huge is that over the life of the contract, we effectively have a charter (school) moratorium.”
While many parents have joined teachers on the picket lines, some oppose the strike.
“To me, it’s a whole distraction and interruption to the school year,” said Liam Boyd, the father of a fourth grader at Blaine Elementary School.
“I don’t support the union. I think the school district and the city has been more fair this time and (are) trying to be more fair.”
The union’s president, Jesse Sharkey, said he has two children in the school district.
“We understand that a strike is a disruption to the parents of the city,” Sharkey said. “It’s worth a short-term disruption if that puts in place over the long-term the conditions that make education better in this city.”
CNN’s Omar Jimenez, Bill Kirkos and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.