That was the question I posed to Chicago Public Schools yesterday. Their response?

“We’ll have to get back to you on that.”

The full Chicago Teachers Union bargaining team met with Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday afternoon, where members presented heartfelt and evidence-based testimonials on our key demands and the urgent needs in our schools. We shared the areas in which we are excited to see that the mayor-elect seems to agree with what our schools and students need.

The district team rarely spoke and did not ask questions—leaving the impression that they are not interested in bargaining and are awaiting marching orders from the mayor-elect. When I asked if they believe that librarians are educationally necessary in schools, they had no answer. Not even a “Yes, but we have to be sure it makes sense financially.” Nothing.

We are following a timeline agreement which meets the requirements of the state law—a law that CPS lobbied for. We will bargain diligently to reach an agreement before the start of the 2019-2020 school year and preserve our right to strike. We invoked fact finding yesterday to stay on track to have the right to strike if necessary in the fall. We do not want to strike, but we will take a vote and do so if we do not win significant agreement on our demands.

We will also ensure that members are adequately updated and fully aware of what is on the table as the process continues, and before we decide what actions to take.

At the end of the session yesterday, CPS agreed that the context in 2019 is different than in past years. The district also stated that it is in a better financial situation, and said that with educators at the helm of CPS for the first time, there are many areas in which it fundamentally agrees with the Union about what our schools need.

Our demands remain unchanged: To settle a contract, CPS must agree to fair educator pay and benefits, reduced class sizes, increased staffing and improved working conditions in our schools, and just demands for our communities. You can listen to audio from this week’s all-member tele-town hall to learn more about the contract campaign and our vision for the schools and communities Chicago’s students and their families deserve.

We need the mayor-elect to keep her campaign promises so we return to work next fall in fully resourced and staffed schools. Therefore, we invite members, students and their communities to share what they want she and the public to know about our schools at our Keeping the Promise: Rally for a Fair Contract on May 22.

We will also invite CPS to participate in a open bargaining session in which all CTU members are welcome to attend. With all of the challenges in our city, our bargaining with the district must be a priority for the new mayor. We cannot go a year without a contract. The time is now to win big for our schools.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
CTU President