Exasperated Lightfoot appeals to CTU to match her offer with ‘comprehensive’ counterproposal

A grim-faced Lightfoot stood before a pair of charts to underscore her point that the Chicago Board of Education is still waiting for the CTU to bargain in good faith.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot holds a City Hall news conference on Monday.

A grim-faced Mayor Lori Lightfoot holds a City Hall news conference on Monday. Behind the mayor are, from left, Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade and Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th), chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee.

Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

An exasperated Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday urged the Chicago Teachers Union to share her “sense of urgency” about avoiding a teachers strike by countering the city’s “comprehensive offer” with a “comprehensive response.”

A grim-faced Lightfoot stood before a pair of charts to underscore her point that the Chicago Board of Education is still waiting for the CTU to bargain in good faith.

One chart included the giant number “141.” That’s the number of days Lightfoot has been in office and, she claims, waiting for the union to address the substantive issues of compensation, health insurance and staffing.

The second chart was a timeline of all of the city’s offers on substantive issues, including the five-year, 16 percent pay raise that matched a fact-finder’s recommendation.

Lightfoot also held up copies of her administration’s 50-page offer, then contrasted it with the union’s five-page response delivered last Friday that, she claims, addresses “none” of the substantive issues.

A chart displayed during a City Hall news conference by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city and Chicago Public Schools officials.

A chart displayed during a City Hall news conference Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city and Chicago Public Schools officials, urging the Chicago Teachers Union to offer a “compromise” response to its latest proposal.

Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

“I’m concerned. I’m definitely concerned . . . We have moved and met them on issue after issue . . . [But] we can’t bargain against ourselves,” the mayor told a City Hall news conference. She was flanked by Schools CEO Janice Jackson, Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade, Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle and Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th), chairman of the City Council’s education committee.

“We need to have them at the table with a comprehensive counter-offer on the substantive issues . . . It’s 141 days and all we have to show for it is five pieces of paper. That’s not moving things forward.”

Del Valle said the city’s offer won’t revive the now-alleviated financial crisis at CPS or “make promises we can’t keep.”

CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the union is equally “exasperated.” He argued Lightfoot knows full well “what we need” to get a deal done: recommendations “in writing that speak to the quality” of Chicago Public Schools.

“It’s been 22 years since they took out class-size provisions. We’ve been waiting a long time for that. It’s been six years since they closed 50 schools. It’s been seven years since they promised a full school day. They promised that we would have staff to support the longer day and they laid off staff,” Sharkey said.

“The board hasn’t shown that they’re willing to move off what is, on their part, a stubborn refusal to negotiate on our key issues. They essentially want us to solve that problem for them by removing big chunks of our proposal. So, the feeling of frustration is mutual . . . The board is still trying to take teacher time. And we’re still trying to increase it.”

Sign displayed at City Hall news conference showing how long the city has waited for what it calls a “comprehensive counterproposal” from the Chicago Teachers Union.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she’s tired of waiting for a what the city calls a “comprehensive counterproposal” from the Chicago Teachers Union. But CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the mayor knows exactly what she needs to do to get a deal.

Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Lightfoot hasn’t forgotten the CTU was among mayoral challenger Toni Preckwinkle’s biggest supporters. But the new mayor has kept her temper in check and more than delivered on her promise not to, as she put it, “lead with my middle finger” in dealing with the CTU.

The “I’m-not-Rahm” approach hasn’t worked. Lightfoot clearly is losing her patience.

“CTU leadership is not exhibiting the sense of urgency needed to move these negotiations forward in a substantive way to avoid a strike,” the mayor said.

“Realistically, we have to have a deal done by (next) Tuesday morning so that it can be documented and they can take it to their House of Delegates to avoid a strike on Oct. 17.”

Lightfoot was asked whether she now believes the CTU wants a strike.

“I hope that’s not the case. There’s no reason why we should have a strike. ... We are willing to go full-bore, seven-days-a-week for the next seven days or however long it takes to get a deal done,” she said.

Pressed repeatedly on whether she was open to enforceable class size limits and staffing mandates, Lightfoot said: “I am open to a comprehensive answer that addresses all of the open issues. That’s what we’re open to. One-offs and two-offs” will not be discussed.

The mayor was asked whether she believes the CTU is pushing CPS to the brink of a walkout in the belief she will cave in the end in her desperation to avoid a strike.

“I never like to characterize what’s in the mind of other people . . . It’s a dangerous thing to do,” she said.

Sharkey argued that whether schools have nurses, “manageable” class sizes, “staff to deal with trauma” and “special ed rooms that can function” matter deeply to teachers.

“The mayor shouldn’t expect this is some talking point that we made up to give her a hard time. It’s not,” he said.

“We’ve been about this . . . long before I ever heard of Lori Lightfoot.”

Still, one of the CTU’s Jan. 15 proposals seems to be just a bit extraneous.

It states, “In pre-K classrooms ... children shall be allowed and encouraged to nap” — not just kids under 6 years old in full-day pre-K and kindergarten programs.

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