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Chicago schools reach a tentative deal with a union. But teachers are still on strike

First, the good news: Chicago Public Schools has reached an initial deal with a union it’s been sparring with for weeks.

Now, the bad news: That deal doesn’t affect the 25,000 educators still on strike in the country’s third-biggest school district.

So 300,000 students are missing an eighth day of classes Monday. Students will be missing a ninth day, too, because the Chicago Teacher’s Union has not scheduled a House of Delegates vote that’s needed to end its strike, according to a tweet from Chicago Public Schools.

“As a result, it will not be possible to hold classes tomorrow, Tuesday, 10/29. After school activities will not be available at CPS schools,” the tweet read.

“We want to get back to work. We miss our students,” Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said. “But we have a little ways to go still.”

A union claims ‘victory’ but is back on the picket lines

In a sign of progress, Chicago Public Schools reached a tentative deal with SEIU Local 73, the union representing school support staff.

“This is a victory for working people in Chicago and shows what is possible when we unite and take action,” SEIU Local 73 President Dian Palmer said.

“The lowest-paid support workers who are the backbone of our schools are going to see raises that mean their families won’t have to struggle living in an expensive city where costs keep going up.”

But the SEIU isn’t done picketing yet. On Monday, members joined the Chicago Teachers Union’s strike.

“It takes a whole package to educate our kids,” Palmer said. “We will be with CTU until they get a contract that they deem appropriate.”

The teachers union rejects a $485 million offer

Chicago Public Schools said it offered the CTU a package worth $485 million, which includes 16% raises for all teachers and support staff; a full-time nurse and social worker for every school, every day; and additional full-time staff for high-need schools.

CPS Superintendent Dr. Janice Jackson said she was “incredibly disappointed” that the union didn’t accept the offer and is prolonging the strike.

“We have to be realistic about the state of our finances, and we won’t have a deal until CTU figures out that we’re a family putting gas and groceries on the credit card,” the superintendent tweeted.

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said the school district’s latest offer isn’t good enough.

“When I hear that there’s a deal on the table and we cannot say yes, I ask a question: Do you say yes to injustice? Do we say yes to inequity? Do we say yes to things that are half done?” she said.

“The offer on the table right now effectively provides class size protections for only one third of the entire city.”

Where both sides agree — and where they don’t

The teachers union president said he and city officials — including Mayor Lori Lightfoot — have actually found some common ground.

“She wants to prioritize money and resources to some of our neediest schools. I get that. I think that makes sense. So we’re part of the way there,” Sharkey said Monday.

“But there also needs to be something for schools that have massively oversized classes that are in other parts of the city.”

He said the sticking points that remain won’t cost the city a half billion dollars.

“I’m not talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. I’m talking about 10, 20, 30 million dollars of additional resources to get that job done,” Sharkey said.

What the teacher’s union wants

The CTU has been fighting for smaller class sizes, as some classrooms have more than 40 students.

And in a city where many children face poverty, violence or grief at a young age, teachers are pushing for more case managers, librarians and other support staff.

In addition to more staffing, “We’ve asked the (school) board to give us a little more time to do our jobs,” Sharkey said.

“Teachers can call it preparation time, but you can call it collaboration time, you can call it time that we need to call parents, the time that we need to grade lessons, to give individual attention to students’ work.”

Sharkey said he understands the growing frustration over the ongoing strike.

“No one wants a long strike. That’s not what we set out to accomplish,” he said.

“What we set out to accomplish was a fair settlement where we can look our students and each other in the eye and say, ‘Yep, conditions are going to be better.'”

CNN