CTU strike

Supporters of the strikes by the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union Local 73 rally outside Clissold Elementary School on Oct. 18. Both unions had reached agreements with the city by Oct. 31, and classes at all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) resumed on Nov. 1. Teachers were on strike for 11 school days, and many CPS sports teams were forced to forfeit games, including in the Illinois High School Association postseason. (Review file photo)

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 strikes came to an end, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students returned to school on Nov. 1 after a two-week hiatus.

Several weeks of negotiations led to the CTU and SEIU Local 73 members who work in CPS reaching agreements with the city.

Classes at all CPS schools were cancelled after the strike began on Oct. 17.

“This 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,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey in a prepared statement. “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 … struggle was the only option we had to enshrine, ensure and enforce real change for our students and school communities.”

Sharkey had gone toe to toe with Mayor Lori Lightfoot in demanding better classroom conditions, including more nurses and social workers in schools.

In a prepared statement, Lightfoot said the five-year deal is “historic” and “provides significant benefits to our teachers, our school support staff, our families and, most importantly, to our students. The entire city will ultimately benefit.”

She admitted the strike was a difficult time.

“These past 11 days have not been easy on our CPS family,” Lightfoot said. “To all those who stepped up to ensure our students and families had the support and resources they needed during this strike, we as a city thank you.”

Lightfoot said the contract will put a nurse and social worker in every school within five years, beginning with the highest-need schools, and “provide a real solution for thousands of homeless students in Chicago.”

She said it includes investments in additional support staff and smaller class sizes for the schools where the need is greatest. Teachers and school staff will receive a 16-percent raise over the course of the deal.

The CTU said there will be 209 additional social worker positions, 250 additional nursing positions and a case manager assigned to every school; $35 million per year will be used to reduce the size of K-12 classrooms, and a sports committee will have an annual budget of $5 million—a 33-percent increase—to raise coaching stipends and buy new equipment and resources.

CTU members will have the .8-percent increase to healthcare contributions that went into effect last January rescinded as of last July, and there will be no changes to benefits and reductions in co-pays for mental-health services and physical therapy. An employee’s bank of sick days will also increase. The development of individualized education plans (IEP) will be handled solely by the IEP team.

The CTU House of Delegates agreed to the tentative contract on Oct. 30 but continued the strike the next day, claiming teachers wanted the school days missed during the strike to be made up at the end of the year.

Both sides agreed on Oct. 31 to make up five days.

Members of SEIU Local 73 who work in CPS—in positions such as special-education classroom assistants, custodians and security officers—had joined the CTU in striking and stayed on the picket lines even after they reached a tentative deal on Oct. 27.

The CTU still must ratify its contract; SEIU Local 73 members who work in CPS ratified their contract on Oct. 30.

SEIU Local 73 members who work in the Chicago Park District also nearly went on strike on Oct. 17, but they agreed to a last-minute contract.

The work stoppage reeked havoc on many student activities, including testing and athletics.

The fall 2019 PSAT and SAT tests had already been postponed until Oct. 30, and they were cancelled when school wasn’t in session.

School administrators said CPS told them that the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation will allow juniors to submit their April 2020 SAT scores for consideration for National Merit Scholarships, instead of their PSAT scores.

Seniors can register to take the SAT on Saturday, Dec. 7; the registration deadline is Nov. 8.

Students interested in taking the PSAT eighth-/ninth-grade test can still do so this fall; a date has not been set.

Several CPS sports teams from schools that employ CTU members were unable to play in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) postseason, including golf, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

Cross-country teams originally were not allowed to compete, but a judge overruled the IHSA on Nov. 1, allowing the teams to compete in sectional meets on Nov. 2.

Many football teams had to forfeit regular-season games and did not earn enough wins to make the playoffs.

Those earning a spot in the postseason were able to play—barely.

The IHSA requires that any time a football team doesn’t practice for seven or more days, it must hold three days of practice before competing again.

The affected CPS teams played Nov. 2, and even with the strike still going on, CPS allowed teams to host practices on Oct. 30, with non-CTU coaches leading the workouts.

The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) and Morgan Park High School (MPHS) both played on Nov. 2, with CHSAS losing at Kewanee High School and MPHS losing at East Louis High School.

Swim teams will also be able to compete, with their postseason beginning Nov. 16.

In her prepared statement, Lightfoot acknowledged students’ missed opportunities.

“We will do everything in our power to mitigate the harms and keep our students moving forward to fulfill their destinies,” she said. “Now is the time to come back together, and get back to school. I am confident that we will heal together—as a city and a school community.”

She also said the CTU “accomplished a great deal” with the agreement.

“They raised a number of important issues that impact our students and families—from increased funding for sports and athletics, better supports for our diverse learners, highlighting the importance of restorative justice, and more,” Lightfoot said. “And on these and many others, I am confident in saying that our teams were able to come to agreement in a way that will deliver tangible improvements, and make a real difference for our students.”

The longest CTU strike occurred in 1987 and spanned 19 school days. The CTU also went on strike in 2012 for seven school days.

The CTU held a “day of action,” similar to a strike, in April 2016, and nearly went on strike that October before a last-minute deal was reached.