Chicago Teacher’s Union ends longest strike in decades

Teachers with the Chicago Teachers Union picket outside of the Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, Illinois, on Monday, September 10, 2012. Disney is one of 144 CPS contingency plan schools that is open for displaced students. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

The Chicago Teacher’s Union ended their strike on Friday. Classes had been cancelled for 11 days, with over 350,000 Chicago students out of school for the longest time in thirty years. The CTU represents 37,000 Chicago Public School employees, who were protesting for smaller class size, better pay, increased support staff, and an updated contract.

The union had been in negotiations with the Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot, and the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, Janice Jackson. Although several offers were passed back and forth over the last two weeks, CTU demanded make-up instruction days to account for the strike at the end of the term. The mayor offered $10 million to support smaller class sizes and $5 million for veteran teachers’ pay, in addition to her earlier $500 million offer, but was adamant that there would be no make-up days.

Mayor Lightfoot was frustrated that the union continued to reject her offers, saying on Twitter, “We are enormously disappointed that CTU cannot simply take yes for an answer.” The union’s vice president Stacey Davis Gates responded by tweeting, “Why is the mayor taking out her anger over the strike on CPS students by reducing instructional time?”

The final agreement includes a raise for teachers, a guaranteed class size cap, a nurse and social worker in every school, and five make-up days instead of 11.

There are currently 361,314 students in Chicago public schools—the third largest district in the nation. In underfunded schools, often in low-income areas, there are as many as 40 students per class, with only one teacher. Although there are 37,375 CPS staff represented by the union, only 21,334 of those are teachers; the other 16,000 employees are administrators, office staff, janitors, and cafeteria staff.

The CTU’s contract with CPS expired in July. The contract with teachers typically lasts five years, but the CTU was pushing for a three-year contract to allow teachers more flexibility.

The Chicago Public School system had previously dedicated $3.8 billion to education. That sounds like a lot, but once allocated to different schools and projects, there are still not enough resources to go around. Many schools are underfunded and don’t have the resources to provide an adequate education to students who desperately need it.

The strike came at a particularly bad time for students, as the deadline for early applications for many schools is the end of the day on Friday. With schools closed, students couldn’t access transcripts and other materials needed for applications.

 [HA1]Do I need to specify the longest time in Chicago?