CPS, CTU make progress with several tentative agreements, but strike still looms

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot approaches the lectern to answer a question during a press conference earlier this week to address the ongoing dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS over whether schools are safe enough to reopen.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot approaches the lectern to answer a question during a press conference earlier this week to address the ongoing dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS over whether schools are safe enough to reopen. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A few large points of contention remain, but the sides started putting pen to paper the day after talks appeared on the verge of derailing.

Leaders from Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union reached several tentative agreements Saturday in ongoing negotiations to reopen schools, making progress at the bargaining table less than 24 hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the “CTU leadership has failed and left us with a big bag of nothing.”

A few large points of contention remain, but the sides started putting pen to paper the day after talks appeared on the verge of derailing, signaling a deal could still be finalized this weekend.

The district’s tentative agreements with the union were on health and safety protocols, ventilation, a contact tracing program and safety committees at each school that would monitor problems, the union told members Saturday.

But the sides are still negotiating over larger disagreements, such as a health metric to determine school closures, teacher vaccinations, a broader testing program for staff and students, work-from-home accommodations and a phased-in return to schools.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey wrote in an email that the signs of progress were because “the team at the table for CPS is working on reaching an agreement.”

“They also, however, have to manage the mayor, which we understand is a concern based on last night’s spectacle,” Sharkey said.

In a Friday night news conference, the mayor had demanded thousands of teachers return to their schools Monday, issuing an ultimatum to the CTU and setting the stage for the city’s second teachers strike in 15 months. The union has said its members won’t return to in-person work without an agreement.

“Another day has passed, and the CTU has not agreed to anything,” Lightfoot said, appearing her angriest at the union since the 2019 strike. “The CTU leadership has failed and left us with a big bag of nothing.

“Those teachers need to be there to greet their students and teach them in-person,” she continued. “If the CTU continues not to show up and fails to work toward an agreement in good faith, then we will have no choice but to take further action. Now, let me be clear, none of us want to go there. And we shouldn’t have to.”

The tone of the mayor’s comments surprised members of the union leadership and even some CPS insiders who expected her to announce progress at the bargaining table and continued talks over the weekend.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Feeds,News,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago

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January 30, 2021 at 04:06PM

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