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What are CPS and the CTU fighting over?

Amid the ongoing Chicago Teachers Union strike, here’s the latest on what’s been settled between union and Chicago Public Schools negotiators and what’s still in play.

Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Sun-Times files

What are they fighting about?

More precisely, what are the contract proposals that bargaining team members with the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union are trying to come to agreement on, and how much do they cost?

Based on the current offer that’s on the table, about $500 million per year would be added to the school district’s costs by the end of a potential five-year deal in 2024. The start of the agreement would be cheaper, but ramped-up staffing over time would make it more expensive. The current CTU contract costs $2.6 billion annually.

As the multi-day strike, now in its second week, continues, here’s the latest on the closed-door talks going on at Malcolm X College. Scroll down to see the provisions on which the two sides have reached agreement — and where they’re still at odds.

High-priority issues

Length of contract: To be determined (TBD)

CPS wants a five-year deal, which would expire after Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s first term has ended. This would allow the district more time to find additional ways, likely including borrowing and possibly raising property taxes, to pay for what will end up being an expensive contract.

The CTU is arguing for a three-year deal, similar to the one reached in 2016 — but which would set up another potential battle before the next mayor’s race. The union says it doesn’t want to be locked into a longer deal without a more immediate influx of resources for schools.

Pay: TBD

CPS has offered 3% raises for each of the first three years of the contract and 3.5% raises for each of the last two years.

CTU has asked for 5% raises in each of three years.

Health benefits: TBD

CPS has offered to keep costs to CTU members flat for the first three years of the contract and increase teachers’ contributions by 0.25% in the fourth year and 0.50% in the fifth. Charges such as deductibles and co-pays would not change over the entire five-year term of the contract, though the overall insurance cost to CPS is expected to rise about 6% per year.

Class size: TBD

CPS has proposed expanding the grades that get an extra teaching assistant for classes with more than 31 students to third grade, so K-third. That alone would cost $10 million. More discussions are being had about expanding that even further to grades past third.

CTU wants enforceable class-size limits, especially for the youngest children, as well as more teaching assistants. The two sides are working on a framework for a new class-size council that would get weekly updated data and would have a pool of money to address situations on a case-by-case basis. How much money is still under discussion.

Students work inside their classroom at Brentano Math and Science Academy. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times Sun-Times files

Staffing: TBD

Social workers, case managers, nurses, teacher assistants, counselors and librarians. This is another of the sticking points prompting CTU to say: “Put it in writing.” CPS made its first written staffing proposal last week that would spell out in the contract the mayor’s budgetary promises from this past summer — that’s 250 more full-time nurses, at least 200 more social workers and more special ed case managers, based on each school’s number of special ed students. The district and the mayor had held out for months from putting staffing into the contract.

CTU has asked for 3,000 new employees over the next two years — with a price tag, CPS estimates, of $800 million. The CTU says the district’s latest offer doesn’t go far enough to ensure the new positions will be hired, and only sets goals for staffing. But the union also said it’s willing to work through the district’s staffing framework and ramp-up hiring over the next few years to give CPS time to find the right people and the money to make the hires. New positions would initially go to schools in low-income neighborhoods that need them the most.

Preparation time: TBD

CPS has withdrawn its proposal to put elementary school principals in charge of four out of five teacher prep periods a week. The current contract has only one principal-directed prep period out of five.

CTU has asked for an extra 30 minutes of elementary teacher-directed prep time each morning, a proposal CPS says would shorten instructional time but which the union says can be added by reorganizing the current elementary school day.

Everything else

Special education: TBD

CTU is asking for more prep time for special ed teachers and protections on the decisions made by teams determining what services each child needs and is entitled to.

Students experiencing homelessness: Tentative agreement

New, dedicated staff positions will help students who are homeless. Schools with more than 75 homeless students are to get one position. Those with more than 140 kids without permanent homes get two. As things stand, 24 new positions will be created citywide.

Pre-K classes: Tentative agreement

CPS agreed to follow Illinois law in maintaining a ratio of one adult for every 10 pre-K students. Naps now also are guaranteed for kids in all-day pre-K.

Noble Street College Prep.
Noble Street College Prep.
Annie Costabile / Sun-Times

Charters: Tentative agreement

CPS will tighten its moratorium from a cap on the total number of privately managed charter schools to a ban on any new ones for the duration of the contract.

Counselors: Tentative agreement

Counselors will no longer be pulled from counseling to do non-counseling duties, such as subbing in classrooms.

Sports: TBD

CTU is asking for higher stipends for sports assistant coaches and for more money at schools for transportation, equipment and facilities.

Teacher evaluations: Partial tentative agreement

The two sides agreed to contract language that would make teacher evaluations more equitable. The CTU has said teachers of color in low-income neighborhoods are punished through teacher evaluations for things out of their control that cause student test scores to drop. More discussions are being held about other facets of teacher evaluations.

Support staff pipeline: Tentative agreement

The district is committing to continuing programs that would help support staff receive additional education and training to grow into regular teaching roles. This is aimed at growing the number of teachers of color in the district.

Sanctuary cities: Tentative agreement

For the first time, sanctuary city protections for immigrants and refugees will be included in the contract.

Bathrooms: Tentative agreement

Teachers and staff will be promised access to clean bathrooms.

Boy’s bathroom stall at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy. | Provided.