CHICAGO, Nov. 1, 2019—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) yesterday reached an agreement with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to end an historic 11-day strike in the nation’s third-largest school district. The strike and the subsequent deal comes on the heels of a nationwide pro-public education movement that has sparked walk-outs throughout the country, including West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Los Angeles, CA.
The House of Delegates—the Union’s 700-member governing body—voted to approve an agreement that establishes enforceable class size limits for the first time in CPS; puts nurses and social workers in every school; increases wraparound services for students; clears a pathway to return librarians to schools; and prioritizes educational supports for school communities on the South and West sides of the city that end decades of divestment in CPS. The deal will now be reviewed by CTU rank-and-file members for ratification as the Union turns its focus to contract enforcement and the fight for an elected representative school board and a restoration of full-collective bargaining rights.
“We bargained for more than 10 months, were on strike for 11 days, and the whole time parents, students and community members stood with us,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Today, we return to classrooms with real and lasting change for our students and the people of this city.”
By raising their collective voices, the Union’s 25,000 rank-and-file teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians, nurses and librarians broke the barrier that existed between the haves and have nots, and made it clear that the era of public school disinvestment is ending in Chicago. CTU members won an agreement that puts a nurse and social worker in every school and provides a real solution for thousands of Chicago’s homeless students.
The tentative agreement allocates funds to hire community liaisons at schools with large numbers of students experiencing homelessness. These new CPS staffers, the first of their kind, will be responsible for providing families in need with access to housing resources, establishing early intervention to prevent homelessness and helping students succeed in class.
“As a CPS parent and an educator, I am extremely proud of what our members have accomplished, together, over the past 11 days,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. “We have bargained for the common good and put forth an agenda that prioritizes our students and most vulnerable families, and we made it clear that large class sizes, filthy school buildings and special education neglect are unacceptable for our children.”
This historic fight for what students deserve—nurses and social workers in every school, class size caps, homeless student assistance and additional investment in special education—represents a paradigm shift, according to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
“This wasn’t simply a fight to mitigate the damage of austerity, it was a fight to create the conditions that both students and educators need,” Weingarten said. “This strike, like so many other fights to fund our future, is about building the political will to strengthen our public schools so all kids have their shot at success.”