Months of labor strife come to an end as CPS board OKs contracts with teachers, support staff

The Board of Education voted unanimously to sign off on deals with CTU and SEIU, the last step in ending a contentious strike.

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The Chicago Board of Education

The Chicago Board of Education

Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times

Chicago’s school board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve agreements with unions representing teachers and support staff, officially ending the labor discord that included months of negotiations and 11 missed school days for nearly 300,000 students.

The board also passed a revised budget to pay for the first year of the new contracts and a new calendar to make up five of the missed days.

Board of Education president Miguel del Valle said the school board’s monthly meeting Wednesday — the first one in nearly two months after one was canceled due to the strike — that it was “positive” the agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union “addresses things that have never even been on the negotiating table before.”

“I saw true passion for improving our students’ educational experience from everyone involved from CTU to SEIU to CPS to the mayor’s office staff and to the mayor,” del Valle said, praising schools chief Janice Jackson and other CPS officials for their “exemplary leadership” during negotiations.

“There were great sacrifices made by all involved,” del Valle said. “But the end result is that we’ve opened a new chapter, one that will over the next five years improve CPS services for students, families and the neighborhoods they live in.”

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey addressed the board minutes later, thanking CPS officials for working together to reach a deal during an “intense last couple of months” when, he joked, the CTU was “occasionally sharp-elbowed.”

“It was exhausting and emotionally trying,” Sharkey said. “I want to thank you all for not just putting up with the strike but really for not giving up on the project of public education.”

Jackson and Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade later addressed the five makeup days the district picked — Nov. 27, Jan. 2-3 and June 17-18 — which have drawn criticism from parents, teachers and principals.

Jackson said the district thought about using school improvement days or teacher institute days to make up lost teacher pay, but she added the return-to-work agreement with the CTU included a note from Sharkey that said all makeup days needed to include instructional time for students, making that impossible.

So McDade said officials only had 13 days they could choose from that were both unpaid days for teachers and weren’t instructional days for students, and after taking some parent input, they landed on the five chosen ones.

“We heard overwhelmingly from parents that extending the school year into late June was a poor option,” McDade said. “There was no ideal solution and no one option that would work for everyone.”

Another worry is that low attendance those days could affect school ratings since the district’s rating system takes into account attendance. Parents and principals have asked CPS to mark the makeup days as optional. McDade said it’s “premature” to make that decision, but that the district would consider those concerns.

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