Chicago Teachers Reach Deal to End Strike
The city conceded on many of the teachers demands including smaller class sizes and raises
After two weeks on strike, Teachers in Chicago are heading back to school with a “historic” tentative agreement.
The strike, which has shut down the nation’s third-largest school district, was largely about improving the lives and the education of some of Chicago’s most needy students and educators. The union is touting victories on many of its main issues. Class size was a huge issue for the union, and they were able to get the district to agree on hard limits for class sizes and a $35 million investment annually to fund class size relief. The Chicago Teachers Union said that the contract provides "unprecedented enforcement mechanisms" for class sizes. The union also got the district to commit to the hiring of 250 nurses and 209 social workers so that every school will have at least one full-time nurse and social worker by July 2023. The district will also spend $500,000 a year on efforts to recruit and train nurses, social workers, case managers, school psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, language pathologists and audiologists. They would also phase out the use of privatized nurses, with the goal of having no more contracted nurses at the end of the contract. Plus, there would be a $2 million pool of money for tuition assistance to help paraprofessional nurses become certified school nurses.
For special education students, the contract has a lot of good stuff. By July 2023, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will provide at least one part-time case manager in each school that has 50 students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Schools that have over 300 students with an IEP will get at least 2.5 part-time caseworkers. The contract also will increase staffing levels for English learner program coordinators. CPS will also spend at least $2.5 million each year on efforts to reduce the workload of special education educators.
In terms of pay, there will be a 16% increase over the five years of the contract for all members. However, some job titles will get larger raises. Paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs) will see an average raise of nearly 40% throughout the contract. This was a major sticking point for the union in negotiations before the strike since two-thirds of CPS’ PSRP’s made salaries that put them below the federal poverty line. Coaches will also get a small increase of $5 to their stipends.
“This deal will move us closer to ensuring that our most vulnerable students receive the instruction, resources and wraparound services they need to thrive,” said Jesse Sharkey, the President of the Chicago Teachers Union. “No educator wants to leave their classroom, but our 10-day struggle was the only option we had to enshrine, ensure and enforce real change for our students and school communities. This contract will put a nurse in every school, a social worker in every school and provide a real solution for thousands of homeless students in Chicago.”
Although an agreement was reached on Wednesday, teachers didn’t return to their classrooms until Friday. This was because the district and the union could not come to an agreement on make-up days for the students before Thursday classes began.
Members will now vote on the contract, but Sharkey said he was "not going to say that ratification is going to be a slam-dunk.”