No deal yet: Classes canceled Monday as Chicago teachers strike heads into second school week

Classes in Chicago schools have been canceled for a third day Monday after weekend negotiations failed to result in a deal between the city and teachers union. 

School buildings will be open and students will be served breakfast and lunch at schools, and then be offered dinner to take home, Chicago Public Schools said in a tweet Sunday evening. 

Going into the strike’s second school week, major differences remain. There has not been agreement on several issues: pay and benefits, enforcement mechanisms for class size and staffing, teacher prep time, and the length of the contract.

On the negotiations front, the union said in a Sunday night media update that tentative agreements had been reached on funding for dedicated staff who would support homeless students and protections to keep counselors from being pulled away for non-counseling duties. They also agreed on 10:1 student-to-staff ratios in early childhood classrooms and language that could make it easier for teachers there to set nap times, the union said. 

On class size, the union is still seeking an enforceable cap on class sizes and is open to phasing in support for schools that need it most, said Jennifer Johnson, the union’s chief of staff, during the Sunday night press conference at Malcolm X College. 

Pay for paraprofessionals, who sometimes earn so little that their children qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches, also remains a sticking point, Johnson said Sunday. The union wants a 21% increase in base pay for paraprofessionals who work in the lowest grades, as well as larger raises when they accrue educational experience and spend more years on the job. 

Earlier in the day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a tweet that the city had not received full, written counteroffers from the union to its proposals on class size or staffing, two key issues. “These negotiations must move more swiftly so that we can get students back into school as fast as possible,” the statement said. 

Members of the union’s bargaining team contested that charge, saying Sunday night that they had a productive bargaining weekend and had come to several tentative agreements. In an email to supporters, the union said it had tentatively come to terms with the city on eight issues, including on a charter moratorium and a pipeline for hiring more teachers of color. 

Meanwhile, contract negotiations appear stalled between the city and Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents special education aides and bus aides and is also on strike. A Local 73 spokesperson said that the union and city haven’t held a bargaining meeting since Wednesday, and that another meeting hasn’t been scheduled. 

Without a resolution in their contract dispute, Chicago Teachers Union members will return to the picket line Monday morning. Rain is predicted. “Any chance someone has a red rain poncho?” read one post on a neighborhood Facebook group on Sunday. “#theraindoesntpausethecause.”