CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago Public Schools teachers hit the picket lines Thursday morning after the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS failed to reach a deal despite months of negotiations.
Some of the 25,000 CPS teachers began picketing at CPS schools across the city and at CPS Headquarters in the Loop, including Peirce Elementary School on the North Side, where CTU President Jesse Sharkey held a news conference.
“There is a pent up frustration from our membership about what conditions are like in our schools,” Sharkey said.
At her third news conference of the day Wednesday night, Mayor Lori Lightfoot appealed for cooler heads.
“We will remain at the table, and we hope CTU will as well. I hope this work stoppage will end soon,” Mayor Lightfoot said.
At that moment, CTU delegates made it official, with their House of Delegates voting unanimously to go forward with the strike.
“It’s sad I will not be in school tomorrow because I have to fight for them because I feel like we are only the few fighting for our students,” said CPS teacher Andrea Parker.
“I went to work, and I looked at my brown and my black students, and I said I can’t sit down. I can’t. I’m tired,” said CPS teacher Moselean Parker.
The mayor said she agreed to union demands that she put in writing commitments on class size and staffing only to have CTU, she said, move the goal posts, adding demands such as banking sick time that would explode the CPS budget.
“Agreeing to an extra $2.5-billion a year in costs would be completely irresponsible,” Lightfoot said.
“I think that the CTU at this point has stopped bargaining in good faith,” said Chicago School Board President Miguel Del Valle.
Sharkey responded to the mayor’s claims Thursday saying, “It is hard for me to hear about exploding the budget when the city has one, gotten a billion dollars a year extra funding from the state, which is supposed to go for English language learners, it is supposed to go to special education, it is supposed to go to making classes smaller and we haven’t seen that. Secondly, the city has just given a billion dollars away to the Lincoln Yards TIF development. We are in neighborhoods where students, children need relief and so that is where we think the resources should be going.”
The CTU has another rally and march planned at CPS Headquarters, 42 West Madison Street, at 1:30 p.m. It is the first CPS teacher strike since 2012.
The city has offered teachers 16-percent raises over five years. The union is asking for a 15-percent raise over three years.
But this is about more than pay. The CTU wants more social workers, nurses and librarians and reduced class sizes. Mayor Lightfoot says her team has proposed changes that would satisfy teachers’ demands.
Teachers have also asked for more prep time, but Mayor Lightfoot says she refuses to cut class time for children.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said all classes and afterschool activities are canceled for Thursday.
Regular transportation will not be provided for students, Jackson said. Students will be able to attend any school that serves their grade level and are encouraged to attend their regular school.
SEIU Local 73, which represents CPS support staff is pushing for better wages and health benefits