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Chicago Teachers Union says latest proposal provides ‘a path’ to deal with city

The CTU’s latest offer would allow the district to phase in changes to class sizes and staffing over the life of the contract.

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey stands before microphones Saturday in the Loop to announce the union’s latest offer, which would allow Chicago Public Schools to phase in changes to class sizes and staffing over the life of the contract.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey stands before microphones Saturday, Oct. 16, 2019 in the Loop to announce the union’s latest offer, which would allow Chicago Public Schools to phase in changes to class sizes and staffing over the life of the contract.
Michael McDevitt for the Sun-Times

A day after a contentious bargaining session left the city and its teachers union reeling for solutions, the two sides had a “positive” meeting Saturday that included a new proposal that union leaders say could put them closer to a deal.

Chicago Teachers Union officials said the offer would allow Chicago Public Schools to phase in changes to class sizes and staffing — which have been key issues in bargaining — over the life of the contract. The school district previously said barriers such as a shortage of qualified candidates could hurt its chances of quickly finding potentially thousands of new employees.

Instead of immediate solutions across the board, the union said it would accept relief in areas of the city that need the help the most, but CTU President Jesse Sharkey said that any staffing agreement needed to include specific numbers of workers.

“While our proposed outline does not solve all outstanding issues, we believe it does provide the mayor a path,” Sharkey told reporters Saturday afternoon outside the Loop office building of CPS’ head negotiator.

“Not just a path to a settlement — which we at the CTU also want — but a path to a contract which will provide wraparound services, basic education supports, equity and support for neighborhood schools,” Sharkey said.

On class size, the union was still looking for harder caps and enforcement mechanisms, but was also willing to allow those fixes to come over time.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson released a joint statement Saturday evening that said they were “pleased to see more progress at the negotiating table than at any time up to this point.”

Their more positive and conciliatory tone reflected a shift from a day earlier, when on Friday Lightfoot charged the CTU with “refusing to negotiate in good faith” after the union rejected the city’s “last, best and final offer.”

Negotiations will resume Monday, with the district and city set to meet daily ahead of a Thursday strike deadline.