Strike continues Thursday to ensure instructional make-up days for students
CHICAGO, Oct. 31, 2019—The Chicago Teachers Union yesterday reached a landmark Tentative Agreement for a new contract with Chicago Public Schools. Regrettably, the same can’t be said about instructional make-up days for students. In a stunning last-minute political decision, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS cancelled school on Thursday—prolonging the strike for another day—and refuse to bargain with the CTU over instructional make-up days for the city’s students.
“This historic agreement recognizes and values the voice and experience of Chicago educators, and turns the page and provides a new pathway for CPS and our rank-and-file members to do right by students and families,” President Jesse Sharkey said. “Sadly, the same can’t be said about the mayor’s decision to not restore instructional time to our students.”
“Our members are tired, frustrated and miss their students…we want to return to the classroom,” Sharkey said. “By not restoring days of instruction to our students lost during the strike, the mayor is making it clear that she is more concerned about politics than the well-being of students.”
Regarding the Tentative Agreement, Sharkey added: “This deal will move us closer to ensuring that our most vulnerable students receive the instruction, resources and wraparound services they need to thrive. No educator wants to leave their classroom, but our 10-day struggle was the only option we had to enshrine, ensure and enforce real change for our students and school communities. This contract will put a nurse in every school, a social worker in every school and provide a real solution for thousands of homeless students in Chicago.”
Before taking effect, the new deal must be ratified by CTU rank-and-file members. Voting for full ratification of the contract takes place in schools 10 days after a strike is suspended. Following acceptance, CTU members will turn their focus to Springfield, where they plan on working with the Illinois House and Senate leadership, and Governor J.B Pritzker, to ensure that Chicago’s students, educators and families receive an elected representative school board and a restoration of full bargaining rights.
Beyond adding wraparound services for students, the agreement will also provide significant improvements to the CPS staffing pipeline and increase city funding for school sports and new equipment for student athletics.
“Today’s agreement will move us one step closer to smaller, enforceable class sizes, equitable pay for educators and paraprofessionals, and more support for our English Language and special education students,” said Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “And now it is time for the mayor to do the right thing and ensure that our students have instructional make-up days.”
On Thursday, the Union, parents, students and community members will converge on City Hall to rally for make-up instructional days.
“Mayor Lightfoot is taking out her misplaced anger at teachers, who went on strike to deliver on the education platform that she campaigned on,” Davis Gates said. “For months, she insisted she would not consider reducing instructional time to give teachers more prep time, and now, she’s throwing away two weeks of instructional time to punish teachers who took her education agenda to heart.”
Educators require an agreement to restore lost instructional days so they have enough time to teach the state-mandated curriculum and prepare students to achieve. In her press conference this evening, the mayor said she refuses to discuss the issue, even though all strikes end with return-to-work agreements. In the last 20 years, virtually every teachers’ strike has ended with an agreement from the school district to make up lost instructional days.
Some major elements of the Tentative Agreement include:
- Enforceable staffing increases: 209 additional social worker positions, a social worker assigned to every school, a case manager assigned to every school and 250 additional nursing positions by the end of the contract.
- Staffing Pipeline: $2.5 million in recruitment and training programs for clinicians, $2 million in tuition and licensure for nurses, increased investments in “grow your own” teacher pipeline programs and 50 percent tuition reimbursement for English Language and bilingual endorsement programs.
- $35 million annually to reduce oversized K-12 classrooms across the district, prioritizing schools serving the most vulnerable students.
- Sports Committee with an annual budget of $5 million (33 percent increase in annual funding) for increases to coaching stipends and new equipment/resources.
- January 2019 0.8 percent increase in health care contribution rate rescinded as of 7/1/19; no plan changes to health insurance benefits and reductions in co-pays for mental health services and physical therapy.
- Bank of sick days earned after July 1, 2012, increased from 40 to 244 days.
- Development of special education Individual Education Plans (IEP) made solely by the IEP team; principals required to use substitutes or release time to provide adequate time for special education duties to the extent possible; common preparation periods with general education teachers where possible; special ed teachers last to be called to cover classes; $2.5 million annual fund to reduce workload.