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Live Updates From Chicago Teachers Strike Day 4: Elizabeth Warren Rallies Strikers; A $500 million Contract Cost

Union President Jesse Sharkey warned Monday that a quick settlement was now “not likely” and fewer members of its big bargaining team would attend negotiations on Tuesday.

Teachers, parents and supporters strike outside Logandale Elementary School in Avondale.
Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago
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AUSTIN — Sen. Elizabeth Warren revved up strikers, whose picket routines have helped them dance their way through social media.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and union President Jesse Sharkey offered emphatic and contrasting views on the state of negotiations.

And City Hall said that what negotiators already have promised will cost $500 over five years — not counting the union demands to reduce class size, add staffing, and raise wages, among a list of asks.

Meanwhile, families anticipating an end to the strike now are grappling with the union’s hint at a drawn-out strike.

Read on and follow Day 4 developments here.

12 p.m. Sen. John Cullerton’s office in Lake View

Chicago Teachers Union protesters gathered in front of Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton’s office. They sought to spotlight the derailment of a bill to create an elected Chicago school board of 21 members and to broaden the list of topics that the union can strike over. (Currently the union legally can strike only over core teaching conditions like pay and benefits.)

We’re protesting Senator John Cullerton’s office. He’s put a hold on the Elected School Board Bill at the request of @chicagosmayor @LightfootForChi. That could’ve help avert this strike. @CTULocal1 @coreteachers @AFTunion @iftaft #putitinwriting #faircontractnow

— Lori Lightfoot is a Republican (@KenzoShibata) October 22, 2019

Lightfoot, who campaigned in support of an elected school board, said she opposed the bill because it would have created an unwieldy governance structure. 

11 a.m. Warren touts education plan

Sen. Elizabeth Warren rallied strikers at DePriest elementary school on the city’s West Side, becoming the latest in a string of Democratic presidential candidate to embrace the walkout.

“I’m here to stand with every one of the people who stand for our children every day,” she told the cheering crowd. She pushed her education plan, which includes universal child care, universal pre-kindergarten, and $100 billion for every public school to spend as it likes.

“Part of what I want to do is I want to give cities like Chicago a good, federal partner,” Warren said.

Visits by Warren, and earlier, candidate Bernie Sanders have raised the profile of the Chicago Teachers Union and teacher labor activists elsewhere.

10 a.m. A $500 million contract cost

Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson visited the non-profit Marwen youth arts center, which is providing care and meals for out-of-school children. She said that as union negotiators keep presenting new demands, she sent a letter Monday to @CTULocal1 saying city resources are finite.

“We have to live within our means,” Lightfoot said.

Separately, City Hall estimated that what negotiators already have agreed to grant the union will cost $500 million more than the previous teachers contract costs.

She said a letter she sent yesterday to union leadership, and co-signed by Jackson, reflected the need for the city to hold the line at additional costs. “There is not an unlimited pool of money,” she said. “We’re barely two years away from a moment when CPS was on the verge of insolvency.”

In contrast to union declarations of little movement, Lightfoot said, “we have been making progress …It’s unfortunate that the larger bargaining team decided to take the day off,” she said, in reference to reports that the union was sending its leadership, but not a full 40-person delegation, to negotiations today. “There should be a sense of urgency all the way around.”

The union has claimed the district’s improved finances and additional state money enable it to afford additional support staff, lower class size caps, and raises for teachers and paraprofessionals. 

But an independent analysis of the district budget has shown that since the state revised its school funding two years ago, Chicago has gotten only about $60 million more each year for schools and instruction. Another $200 million is earmarked for teachers’ pensions. What’s more, the district’s long-term debt, as of the end of summer, has topped $8.4 billion, making it the second most-indebted district in the country behind Los Angeles.  

About Tuesday’s visit to Chicago by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Lightfoot said she wasn’t fazed. 

“People are going to come in, catch a moment and they are going to leave,” she said.

Instead, the mayor said, “what matters is what people of Chicago know and understand.”

9:45 a.m. Who’s going to school?

The school district said that is 507 campuses collectively reported 6,289 students — about 2% of enrollment — showed up Monday. Schools remain open, but are minimally staffed. They are serving three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and a take-home dinner. 

9:30 a.m. Logan Square rally

The park in the center of Logan Square, which sits just a few blocks from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s house, fills with parents and teachers for a morning rally. One of the guests of honor is Rachel Brown, a Chicago teacher whose picket-line, ukulele version of the popular Lizzo song “Truth Hurts” went viral among teachers this week. 

Observers report that some in crowd start marching toward Lightfoot’s home, where multiple police cars are stationed. 

8:30 a.m. A second walkout

Teachers at Passages Elementary School, an Edgewater charter school with about 420 students, have joined Chicago Public Schools teachers on strike today. The roughly 40 teachers at the privately managed, publicly funded school voted last month to authorize a strike over wages, class size, and other issues. The charter school is one of several that have unionized amid organizing efforts by the Chicago Teachers Union.

6:30 a.m. Also planned today

Teachers tell Chalkbeat they will be staging more visible actions today, heading from neighborhood schools to major streets, such as Western Avenue, with their signs and chants. Besides Logan Square a rally also was planned at Dyett High School, the site of a 2015 hunger strike to protest school closings.

From Monday:

Negotiations ended Monday on a sour note, with union President Jesse Sharkey warning that a quick settlement was now “not likely” and that fewer members of its big bargaining team would attend negotiations on Tuesday. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered a more optimistic take. Find the full update from bargaining Monday here.

Members of Service Employees International Union 73 also reported no deal Monday, saying their bargaining session ended in a record 12 minutes. 

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools. Sign up for its newsletter here.