Education

Chicago Teachers Union Sets October 11 Strike Date

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Ted Goodman Reporter

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) put the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on notice that if a deal isn’t reached, it will strike Oct. 11.

“Should there be no agreement between the Union and the Board of Education by October 11, we will begin our third strike since 2012,” the union wrote on its Facebook page. The CTU is protesting proposed pay cuts, staffing cuts and cuts to some services.

CTU President Karen Lewis and Vice President Jesse Sharkey specifically highlighted proposed cuts to special education programs and librarians in a strategic effort to win over public support at a press conference Wednesday,

The union said that since 2013, CPS has seen an 18 percent drop in the number of social workers and a 20 percent drop in the number of school nurses. CPS laid off close to 500 teachers and more than 1,000 support staff in 2015.

“Our clinicians provide a vital service to our students, and to cut them at a time when the city is under siege by gun violence, violent crime, poverty and cuts to social service programs is poor judgment,” Sharkey said.

The CTU authorized its members to go on strike Monday if the two sides were unable to reach an agreement, with 95 percent of participating members supporting the move. (RELATED: Chicago Teachers Union Authorizes Strike)

Union leaders indicated over the summer that a strike was possible as soon as October. The official bulletin of the union stated in August that CTU members were so angry that they were, “ready to strike now, even before school is set to open.” While the union did not walk out on students, they have now set a date. (RELATED: Chicago Teachers On The Brink Of Leving 400,000 Students At Home)

Nearly 400,000 students are taught by close to 22,000 teachers at Chicago’s 660 Public Schools. The teachers have not had a working contract since June 30, 2015, when the contract that was negotiated after the 2012 strike expired. The teachers are vehemently opposed to a proposal from the district that would require them to pay an additional 7 percent of their salary into pensions. The union has also demanded caps on class sizes and a moratorium on charter expansions.

The district and the union made numerous attempts to hash out an agreement over the past year, to no avail. The union unanimously rejected what the school called a “serious offer” in February, asserting that the teachers did not believe the district would honor its promises to “stabilize” finances. Lewis, at the time, cited a “lack of trust in CPS” and the district’s “weasel language” during contract talks. The harsh language from both sides reveals wide-ranging differences on healthcare, pensions and charter schools.

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