“Lori, I ask you, bring a real offer to the table,” said Willie Cousins, Chicago Public Schools teaching assistant.As of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said that while bargaining has brought some concessions and some movement, as of tonight the bargaining team will recommend to the House of Delegates that they do not postpone a strike starting on Thursday, October 17.
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Barring a breakthrough in talks Wednesday, that means 24,000 teachers would walk off the job Thursday morning.
“The only way that we have to make important long-term changes in the schools…is to do a short-term strike that is going to cause some difficulty and pain,” Sharkey said. “And I don’t want to sugarcoat that to parents.”
He said that while it is clear the union has been heard by the city in a number of areas, they have not seen the substantive changes to the contract they need to postpone a strike. Ultimately the House of Delegates will vote to decide whether or not the strike goes forward, but Sharkey said he believes it’s relatively certain.
In the Tuesday evening press conference Sharkey expressed some admiration for the mayor and her commitment to Chicago Public Schools.
“This isn’t about her personally,” he said. “This is about her telling her bargaining team what to do to get movement on these key issues.”
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The mayor acknowledged the two sides weren’t close.
“I have offered to go to the bargaining table multiple times, and I would be there, as would Dr. Jackson, if we thought we were close and we needed some extra push,” Lightfoot said. “We’re not there yet.”
Chicago Public Schools warned parents about a possible strike by voicemail Tuesday.
“We want to remind you that classes will be canceled should a work stoppage begin this Thursday, October 17th,” the voicemail said in part.
“We will, however, keep our buildings open so that students have a safe place to stay during the day, and we will provide meals throughout the day, serving breakfast, lunch, and supper for all our students,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson.
The negotiations are set to continue Wednesday. The CTU House of Delegates meets at 4:45 p.m.
The sticking points for teachers remain limits on class sizes and support staffing, specifically more nurses, librarians and social workers. The union wants their demands to be addressed in writing.
Besides negotiating, teachers spent much of their time Tuesday drumming up support for their cause. Monday about 1,000 people, including teachers, support staff and Chicago Park District employees, took to the streets in a show of union solidarity.
Tuesday some parent and community groups came to the teachers’ defense.
“We will march with them, picket with them and demonstrate with them,” said Steven Ashby of the Chicago Teacher and Solidarity Campaign.
Mayor Lightfoot and CPS released a statement Monday night saying, “Today, the City and CPS’ negotiating team responded at the bargaining table to the Chicago Teachers Union’s framework for staffing and class size that they put forward on Saturday. We expressed a willingness to find solutions on these two core issues that would be written directly into the contract. Unfortunately, no measurable progress was made on any other issue today. We remain committed to getting a deal done, as our teachers, students and families deserve no less.”
Earlier in the day, the mayor posted a message to Twitter.
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