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Start Saving Money To Prepare For A Strike, CTU Urges Teachers As Leaders Blast First Proposal

The city's contract with the Chicago Teachers Union expires June 30.

Heather Cherone/The Daily Line
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CITY HALL — The first proposal from city and school officials to Chicago Teachers Union leaders would “roll back key wins for better learning conditions,” the union told its members — and urged them to begin saving in case of a strike.

With the contract for the teachers set to expire June 30, one full bargaining session has already taken place where discussions were mostly procedural, union President Jesse Sharkey told members.

In January, union leaders laid out four demands for the next contract covering the 25,000-member union: higher pay and better benefits, an increase in the number of nurses and other paraprofessionals, smaller class sizes as well as protections for undocumented students and affordable housing programs.

While the first proposals from the school administration “don’t reflect the draconian cuts of the past,” they “roll back key wins for better learning conditions including in professional decision-making, lesson planning, grading, testing, REACH timelines, sustainable community schools, and by killing the open transfer period,” according to the union.

The district also proposed increasing principal control, made no offers to increase staffing or working conditions for paraprofessionals while failing “to reflect changes that students, parents, and community want to see in our schools,” according to the union.

“CPS is led by two life-long Chicago educators who understand the supports our teachers need to be successful, and the district is committed to working toward a contract that rewards educators for their service, supports the best interests of families, and enables CPS to build on its record-setting academic progress,” said CPS spokesman Michael Passman.

The union has endorsed Toni Preckwinkle in the April 2 runoff, and Sharkey said the union will have additional “leverage” if she prevails over Lori Lightfoot.

“Regardless of who wins the mayor’s race on April 2, we have to be ready for anything,” Sharkey told teachers, telling them to break out their red T-shirts — and to start saving.

“We don’t know if we’ll need to strike the new mayor, but we better be ready, so start saving at least 10 percent of each check going forward to make sure we can stand strong on the picket line,”  Sharkey said.

The CTU last went on strike in 2012, when teachers walked the picket line for nearly a week before Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to the bulk of the union’s demands.