CHICAGO (Reuters) – School classes will be called off for a fourth day in Chicago after the city and striking teachers in the third-largest U.S. school system failed to settle a contract dispute over issues such as class size and staffing.
FILE PHOTO – Teachers picket near New Field Elementary School on the second day day of a teachers’ strike in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 18, 2019. REUTERS/John Gress
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) said it had canceled classes and after-school activities on Tuesday for its 300,000 students, who have been out of school since Thursday when the system’s 25,000 teachers went on strike.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) called the work stoppage after contract negotiations failed to produce a deal on pay, overcrowding in schools and a lack of support staff, such as nurses and social workers.
At a Monday afternoon news conference, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city had made written concessions on pay and staffing and told the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) to show “urgency” to reach a deal.
“Enough is enough, there’s no further excuse to keep our kids out of school,” Lightfoot said, urging teachers to return to work while their union continued to negotiate.
The union showed no sign of giving up the stoppage, saying teachers needed a written contract proposal and it should not have taken this long to get students’ needs met.
“We can’t trust them to do right by students if we go back without a contract,” the CTU tweeted after Lightfoot’s comments.
Earlier, union President Jesse Sharkey said the board of education had still not met demands for things such as improved clinical services for students and staffing a school nurse in every school every day.
“We’re optimistic that this does not have to be long, but there does need to be a commitment of new resources,” Sharkey said.
Lightfoot, who was elected in April, said the district offered a raise for teachers of 16% over five years, and by the end of that period there would be one nurse and one social worker in every school.
Lightfoot said the district could not afford the union’s full demands, which would cost an extra $2.4 billion annually, swelling its budget by 40 percent.
The strike is the latest in a wave of work stoppages in U.S. school districts in which demands for school resources have superseded calls for higher salaries and benefits.
In Chicago and elsewhere, teachers have emphasized the need to help underfunded schools, framing their demands as a call for social justice.
Although the latest work stoppage has forced officials to cancel classes and sports events, school buildings are staying open for children in need of a place to go.
The strike comes seven years after Chicago teachers walked out for seven days over teacher evaluations and hiring practices.
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; additional reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; editing by David Gregorio and Richard Pullin