Today is the day for CTU and CPS, Sharkey and Lightfoot, to end this strike
Yes, we know emotions are running high and both sides are inclined to dig in. The mayor especially needs to keep her cool. So does the CTU president.
If Mayor Lori Lightfoot is right, and we have no reason to doubt her, it’s shameful that Chicago Teachers Union leaders didn’t raise the subject of making up — and paying teachers for — lost school days during what looked like final negotiations earlier this week on a new contract.
So here we are, Thursday morning on a snowy Halloween. Day 15 of the second-longest teachers strike since 1987 and Day 11 of kids being out of class.
The CTU House of Delegates has approved a tentative deal with Chicago Public Schools leaders, but those make-up days are now the final sticking point.
At a late Wednesday news conference, Lightfoot said union leaders, during a three-hour meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, raised six issues that they said needed to be addressed to end the strike. They skipped right over compensation for missed days.
“CTU leadership has chosen to throw a curveball into the process rather than say ‘yes’ to victory for the members and our students,” Lightfoot said.
On this, the mayor is right. We don’t blame her for being angry.
But on this next statement, we disagree: “At this late hour we are not adding any new issues. I’m not compensating them for days they were out on strike. . . . I’m not going to negotiate.”
Reality dictates that more negotiations need to happen today. So we’re heartened by a report this morning from Sun-Times City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman that indicates Lightfoot is having a change of heart.
”She’s willing to do what it takes to get kids back in school. If that means negotiating the number of days, that’s what it is,” Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) told Spielman.
If common ground is reached, maybe a way can be found for CPS football teams to participate in the state playoffs this weekend, though with every passing minute, that possibility seems more remote.
If common ground is reached, maybe universities will work more closely with CPS to extend early college application deadlines.
If common ground is reached, maybe students will learn a real-world lesson that both sides almost always never leave a negotiating table happy.
Here’s the main hurdle that needs to be overcome: Teachers, we are told, can’t be paid for many days if they’re rescheduled during the school year. Tacking 11 days on to the end of the school year would be just lousy for students and teachers, stretching the academic calendar until almost July.
As we write this, we’re hoping that both CPS and CTU officials are taking a hard look at the school calendar and looking to compromise.
Some make-up days could be added in a way that teachers could be paid, and some could be added in a way that they are not. Some of those days could be added into the school year, thereby creating a reasonable schedule designed to salvage lost time in the classroom.
Yes, we know emotions are running high and both sides are inclined to dig in. The mayor especially needs to keep her cool; had there never been a strike, she would have had to pay the teachers. So does CTU boss Jesse Sharkey.
If our city is serious about putting kids first, as both sides have insisted to the point of exhaustion, they will split the difference on this one last lingering point of disagreement and move on.
And Chicago’s kids can go back to learning.
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