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CTU pushes Lightfoot’s office as clock winds down on teachers’ contract

The teachers union submitted their initial contract proposals in January, and not much has changed since then, leaders say.

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey speaks outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters in June.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey speaks outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters at 42 W. Madison St. on Wednesday.
Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

A new administration on the fifth floor of City Hall has not led to any progress at the bargaining table with teachers as the clock ticks down on their existing contract.

That’s according to the Chicago Teachers Union, which brought their grievances Wednesday to the first meeting of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s handpicked Board of Education, four days before their contract expires June 30.

“[Lightfoot] has been silent on the resources that need to go into our schools,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said during a union rally ahead of the Board of Education’s monthly meeting. “She has been silent on the way we’re going to fund the priorities of our children in our schools.

“I don’t know what [Chicago Public Schools negotiators] have been doing for the last six months,” Sharkey said.

Asked to comment on the status of negotiations, Lightfoot’s office issued a statement saying she “has been clear from day one about her promise to deliver bold reforms to our public school system that will put equity first and provide a high quality education for every student in every community.

”Together with CPS, the Mayor is committed to continuing good faith negotiations with CTU as we work to achieve our shared goals of strong investments in neighborhoods schools, providing teachers needed support, and ensuring that every Chicago student has access to safe and nurturing environments where they can learn, grow and thrive,” the mayor’s office said.

The union submitted their first series of proposals to former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office in January — and not much has changed since then, according to Sharkey.

“We’ve had no response to any of the big substantive issues that concern the quality of life in our schools,” Sharkey said.

The main provisions sought by the teachers include salary increases averaging 5%, increased staffing of school nurses, counselors, social workers, librarians and paraprofessionals; and reduced class sizes. They’ve also outlined a series of “social demands” guaranteeing sanctuary status for undocumented students in CPS classrooms and increased availability of affordable housing citywide.

Additionally, the union wants heightened special education and bilingual support services. They have not said how much their proposals would cost, but CTU leaders have acknowledged it’ll cost taxpayers more than their current contract, which was estimated at $8.9 billion when it was ratified in 2016.

In April, the CTU formally requested a federal mediator for negotiations, one of the first requirements to check off ahead of any potential work stoppage.