CTU delegates approve CPS safety agreement, send vote to full union

The uneventful and under-the-radar settlement of this year’s deal comes as a sigh of relief for educators and families.

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Educators, students and union laborers rally at Union Park during the Chicago Teachers Union strike in 2019. The union is on track to finalize a safety agreement with Chicago Public Schools this week.

Educators, students and union laborers rally at Union Park during the Chicago Teachers Union strike in 2019. The union is on track to finalize a safety agreement with Chicago Public Schools this week.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Teachers Union delegates have voted nearly unanimously in support of a COVID-19 safety agreement with Chicago Public Schools, sending the tentative agreement to the full membership for approval by the end of this week.

The uneventful and under-the-radar settlement of this year’s deal comes as a sigh of relief for educators and families who have hoped to avoid the toxic and contentious feuds that marred the past two winters. In both cases, Mayor Lori Lightfoot refused teachers’ efforts to continue working from home at the height of the virus’ spread through the city and canceled classes for days.

The CTU’s 800-member House Of Delegates voted this week with 94% approval to accept the city’s offer for COVID-19 precautions this fall. Electronic ballots went out to rank-and-file members after the delegates’ vote Wednesday evening with a 5 p.m. Friday deadline.

The potential deal would be in effect through August 2023. It involves largely the same virus protections as last year — an in-school testing program, events to vaccinate students and their families, school cleaning and optional masks. It also keeps incentives for substitute teachers to fill in for staff shortages and puts $10 million toward so-called “cadre” substitutes who have longer-term assignments.

CPS said in a statement Thursday evening, “We are optimistic that we will reach a safety agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union and grateful the House of Delegates has paved the way by approving that agreement last night.

“Safety has been our priority for staff and students since the onset of the pandemic. We are thrilled to see teachers, students, staff, and families back in schools this week and are dedicated to ensuring that everyone can safely proceed with teaching and learning.”

The two sides have noticeably dropped the back-and-forth public attacks that dominated the past few years. CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said last week the talks around safety for this fall were “very collaborative.”

“I’m optimistic about where we’re going,” he said of CPS’ relationship with the CTU.

And Maria Moreno, CTU’s financial secretary, said the goal is to keep working hand-in-hand with the district.

“Our new leadership wants a more cooperative relationship with an honest partner at the table,” she told the Board of Education at its monthly meeting Wednesday. “We are hopeful with what we heard this summer.”

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