Chicago teachers ok tentative agreement but strike goes on

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CHICAGO (AP) – Chicago’s teachers union voted to approve a tentative contract agreement with city officials, Wednesday, but have refused to return to work pointing to the failure of the city’s mayor to agree to additional days in the school year to makeup days lost during the strike.

The Chicago Teachers Union tweeted late Wednesday that while they have a tentative agreement with Chicago Public Schools, they “do not have a return to work agreement.” The union announced they plan to be at City Hall early Thursday to demand Mayor Lori Lightfoot will commit to making up school days lost to the strike.

Lightfoot has said she won’t extend the school year. According to union materials, teachers are not paid for school days spent on strike.

Union president Jesse Sharkey said the teachers are not asking to be paid for a strike, but want school days lost to be made up.

“Over the past two weeks we have obtained gains that are meaningful for students that will make schools better for years to come,” he said. “The commitment for nurses, social workers and resources to help homeless students are things that wouldn’t have been accomplished if we hadn’t walked the picket lines.”

The strike, which has lasted nearly two weeks, has kept more than 300,000 students out of school. Following the union’s decision, CPS canceled classes for the 11th day.

The mayor said Tuesday evening that she had sweetened the city’s offer, committing more money to reduce class sizes and boost long-term teachers’ pay. The following morning, she said she was hopeful the delegates would agree to end the strike and reopen classrooms for the first time since the strike began Oct. 17.

“This has been a long journey,” Lightfoot said. “Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of harm that has been done to our young people.”

The 700 members of the union’s House of Delegate met into the evening to discuss the terms of the contract.

Union leaders have said the body’s 25,000 members will have to consider the “risks and rewards” of continuing a strike.

Meanwhile, several high school football teams that are at risk of being locked out of the state playoffs if the walkout endures got a temporary reprieve Wednesday.

The Illinois State High School Association said in a news release that the school district agreed to let the teams practice during the strike. They would not be able to play in games on Saturday if the strike hasn’t been settled by then.

The announcement came just in time for 19 schools whose teams qualified for the state playoffs because IHSA rules require teams from schools where teachers are on strike to practice for three days before they play a game.

The teams can only practice if they find coaches that have the proper certification or meet various requirements. The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many of the schools had found coaches.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body arrive at the union’s Near West Side headquarters to vote whether or not to suspend the longest Chicago Public Schools teachers strike in three decades, Wednesday evening, Oct. 30, 2019, in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
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