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CTU delegates approve sending CPS reopening deal to vote by full membership

The 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union will now vote on whether to accept the deal to bring 67,000 students back for in-person learning.

CTU delegates agreed to send a plan to reopen CPS schools to its full membership Monday night.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body has voted to send the latest school reopening terms proposed by Chicago Public Schools to the union’s 25,000 members for a vote to officially end the standoff with district officials.

The union’s House of Delegates voted with 85% approval — 526 in favor, 82 against and 12 abstentions — to hold a full rank-and-file vote on the tentative deal, moving the nation’s third-largest school system one step closer to the resumption of in-person learning for up to 67,000 students. Some delegates were strongly opposed to the proposed reopening, and the house did not make a recommendation whether or not members should approve an agreement.

Voting by the full membership will take place Tuesday.

The governing body Monday also issued a “no-confidence” vote against Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS leadership, with 90% of delegates voting in favor of the resolution.

Under the plan laid out at the delegates’ virtual meeting, at least 2,000 vaccine doses will be offered to preschool and special education cluster program staff this week, with their students scheduled to return to schools Thursday. Kindergarten through 5th grade staff would return Feb. 22 followed by their students March 1; 6th to 8th grade staff would go back March 1, and their students return March 8. High school students are also not currently scheduled to return in person.

If the deal is approved by rank-and-file members, the city will begin vaccinating 1,500 CPS workers each week at sites specifically for CPS employees later this month. Priority will be given to employees returning to work sooner, as well as those who are at higher risk due to age or demographics.

The city is offering 1,000 vaccines this week to staff who asked to continue working from home because they live with a medically vulnerable household member. Those workers will be required to return two weeks after their first dose.

In the scenario that the full membership rejects the terms, CTU and CPS would head back to the bargaining table and more than likely toward mass lockouts of teachers and a strike. Union vice president Stacy Davis Gates told members in a meeting Sunday that a potential strike “wouldn’t be less than 15 days,” which is how long the 2019 teachers strike stretched on. In the case of a strike, Sharkey noted that the union could face “legal repercussions.”

“If the strike was declared illegal, people could not make up the pay and the board could levy fines against both individual teachers and the union,” he said during the call.

Asked about the CTU’s voting process at an unrelated event Monday afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said “we’re hoping for that ratification, but that’s why we style it, because it is a tentative agreement.”

The mayor said she hoped to move forward from the often tense and hostile negotiations of the past month with a healing process, primarily for students.

“This has been a very tough process for everybody in the CPS ecosystem, notably our students and their parents,” Lightfoot said. “I will do everything I can to make sure that they have a seat at the table on anything that relates to their education and the education of their children.

“The other thing I think we also have to do is talk about the recovery for our children and young people in this city,” she continued. “We talk about recovery in the context of the economic recovery — recovery for small businesses, recovery for our economy. But our young people and our students have been deeply impacted by COVID-19. Not just in terms of educational achievement, although that’s pretty profound impact there, but also in terms of their social emotional learning.”