Tasha Young did not want to go on strike. The 46-year-old counselor from Lakeview High School stood with a group of teachers and staff at a rally at DePaul University Tuesday morning in the mist. Rain had trampled the grass into muddy slush, pushing the strikers onto the sidewalks.
“None of us wanted to go on strike,” Young said. “We voted for it but we didn’t want to. We wanted the mayor to give us a fair contract.”
Negotiations for Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union continued on Tuesday, the 9th day of the strike and the longest against the mayor-appointed Board of Education since 1987.
CPS informed parents in the middle of the afternoon Tuesday that CTU had called a House of Delegates meeting at 6 p.m. It said it would delay calling off school until the meeting, suggesting a deal was in the works.
But CTU told its members that the meeting was merely meant to update them on the status of the negotiations and accused the school board team of making it appear that teachers had a chance to end the strike and did not.
For the strike to end, the union leadership, bargaining team and the Board of Education must come to a tentative agreement. That agreement must then be delivered to membership — which happened during the 2012 strike by passing out documents on the picket line.
The House of Delegates has the power to accept the agreement and suspend the strike. Teachers vote once they are back at school, and if they accept it, the contract is ratified.
Teachers are due to lose their health insurance on Friday, the first day of the next month. Their next paycheck will reflect the missed days of work since the strike began.
About 25,000 CTU members have been off the job and about 300,000 students out of school since Oct. 17.
So far the union has rejected an offer that would have included a double-digit salary increase, provided a nurse and social worker to every school and prioritized support for high-need schools. The CTU still wants additional prep time for teachers and has said the two sides are closer than they have ever been to a “fair contract,” but have some remaining issues to address that are unclear.
“The city is putting up a fight, just like we’re putting up a fight,” said Zoraida Olvera, 54, a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Lewis School of Excellence.
Olvera hopes parents do more to support the Chicago Teachers Union by standing at picket lines with them.
“It would help if they come out and support us,” she said. “Maybe that would have moved everything faster, instead of staying at home and complaining. [As] a parent, I would have been out there to make a bigger impact and [make] our voices be heard.”
Yvette McCaskill, a 3rd grade teacher, said she has seen the inequality in the city.
“It’s the same refrain that we hear over and over again, that there’s no money, there’s no money, there’s no more money,” McCaskill said. “And then they go and they give billions of dollars in taxpayer money to companies like Sterling Bay that build luxury apartments that, frankly, as a teacher, I can’t afford to live in. They’re certainly not for the people that are out here fighting. They’re not for our students. They’re not for our families.”
CPS is considering adding days to the school calendar due to classroom time lost during the teacher strike. Illinois law requires schools to have a minimum of 180 school days each year, and after missing eight days on Monday, Chicago schools fell under that threshold. The missed days won’t automatically be added to the end of the year.
Lindsay Sandle, a Bucktown mother of a second- and a fifth-grader, said she understands why the strike is happening. However, she said it is difficult for working parents. She was at a Panera on Tuesday with her sons after taking them to work with her.
“I’ve had a sitter for a couple of these days but that cost adds up quickly,” Sandle said. “I hope they can come to an agreement soon because I also don’t want the boys to get behind and have to make up too many days. It is a tough situation.”
Baneisha Spruille, a 29-year-old mother of a first-grader, said her daughter is enjoying the strike and calls it her “winter break,” but also said her daughter misses school and friends.
“I know she doesn’t know what’s going on but it’s taking a toll on her,” Spruille said. “She’s forgetting some things her teacher left off teaching her, so I have to work with her with flashcards and things.”
CPS created a district contingency plan in which parents can find childcare places in the event they cannot get work off. All CPS school buildings are opening during normal school hours and will continue to provide breakfast and lunch to students.
“We’re lucky though that we can afford this,” Brittney Culver, 29, who took her son to the Art Institute of Chicago said. “It’s the kids that aren’t fine that I’m worried about.”
She said she was fortunate enough to not have to ask for work off for the majority of the strike but has spent money on childcare that might have otherwise been spent somewhere else.
“I wish the strike would end soon,” said Ignacio Garcia, 38, and father of a 12- and a 13-year-old. Garcia works as a construction worker at Lincoln Yards and said he has been putting his children in aftercare even though he does not have the money to do so.
“There has to be some way to make everybody happy,” he said. “I think Lori Lightfoot should come to an agreement soon because the students, as well as the parents, are suffering from lack of negotiations right now.”
Mari Devereaux, Summer Hoagland-Abernathy, Mars Robinson, Breianna Ryle, Katie Kim, Heather Davies, Cloe Sheehy, Izabelle Galvin Ellis, Camron Miiller, Elise Maclin, Jimi Hargraves, Charlie Wacholz and Julia Greene contributed to this report.