The Chicago teachers strike is headed into a 10th school day after union delegates emerged late Tuesday without any announcement of a contract deal, leading Chicago Public Schools officials to cancel classes again for Wednesday.
Hours after the CTU summoned representatives from city schools to discuss negotiations, and following a day the union and city leaders traded barbs over counterproposals, classes finally were called off around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, continuing the city’s longest strike in decades.
Chicago Teachers Union officials indicated there’s a possibility that a tentative agreement could emerge as early as Wednesday morning. But President Jesse Sharkey added, “We haven’t settled everything.”
There was no immediate comment from the city or CPS offcials.
Union leaders also said they don’t want to pass up an opportunity to lock in historic provisions for improving conditions in schools.
“You don’t go on strike this many days to say, ‘I wish I would have,’” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
The news came despite an apparent push by both sides Tuesday to reach an agreement that could end the walkout and put about 300,000 CPS students and 25,000 teachers back in school for the first time since Oct. 16.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot spent about three hours Tuesday afternoon meeting at City Hall with Sharkey and Davis Gates and presented an enhanced offer that met additional – but not all – union demands.
But following the meeting, Lightfoot said the union was holding out for things the city simply could not agree to, like paid teacher prep time that would reduce the amount of instructional time for children.
“What’s prolonging the strike is the union’s insistence on a shorter school day or school year and their insistence that I agree to support their political agenda,” Lightfoot said.
And she complained that Davis Gates and Sharkey left without offering any commitments.
The union in turn blasted Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson over a robocall that it said went out to parents indicating officials would wait until after a union House of Delegates meeting Tuesday evening to make a decision about whether classes would be canceled again Wednesday.
The union said Lightfoot and Jackson were “toying with” families by not giving them enough time to plan for Wednesday, by suggesting it was the union’s decision and by hinting that the nearly two-week walkout could be coming to an end.
Speculation arose earlier that a tentative deal might be near when the teachers union called a Tuesday evening meeting of its House of Delegates.
But the union quickly tamped that down, repeatedly saying throughout the evening that there is no deal in place.
That proved to be the case after the delegates emerged from a meeting Tuesday that lasted about 2 ½ hours. The delegates could meet again Wednesday after seeking further feedback from rank-and-file members about where negotiations stand.
“We want to stay optimistic and hopeful,” Davis Gates said.
In order to get a tentative agreement, Sharkey said they need to keep making progress at the table. They made some today, and felt it was right to bring in their delegates, he said, but added delegates needs more time to consider the latest city proposals.
Just as the delegates meeting was breaking up, the union released a statement from former president Karen Lewis, who stepped down last year amid serious health problems.
Though the union strongly backed Lightfoot’s opponent for mayor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Lewis’ statement said Lightfoot’s run “gave us hope that she would represent real change in City Hall. She ran on our education platform and made a commitment to reverse years of failed policy and horrible planning by her predecessors.”
Then she asked Lightfoot to “keep your promises and let’s get this done. Our members have resolve and will not relent when it comes to the families they serve.”
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Read it here.