Live updates from Day 4 of the Chicago teachers strike: Elizabeth Warren stops by, a $500M price tag, and a Thursday protest plan

Chicago teachers are getting a special visitor on the fourth day of their strike: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a top Democratic presidential candidate, who revved up strikers on the picket line at a West Side school.

The big question today is whether negotiations will move forward. Talks ended Monday on a sour note, with Chicago Teachers 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. Either way, Meanwhile, families are now grappling with the possibility of a drawn-out strike. Find the full update from bargaining Monday here.

Read on and follow all Day 4 developments here.

7:15 p.m. A ‘rebuilding’ day

In an end-of-day bargaining update Tuesday, union leaders describe an “emotional” conversation about the district’s lack of athletic resources — but little progress at the table on central issues.

They describe the day spent bargaining as a “rebuilding” day between negotiators for City Hall (a contingent that now includes Sybil Madison, deputy mayor for education) and the Chicago Teachers Union. “We had momentum Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” says Stacy Davis Gates, the union’s vice president, “and the oxygen left the room yesterday [with a letter sent by the mayor asking the union to end the strike and continue negotiations]. We’re rebuilding. We rebuilt some of that energy today. We hope to have some more going in to tomorrow. We want a settlement, but they have to put in real resources for it.”

By resources, the union leadership says it will be listening tomorrow to Lightfoot’s budget address and whether she will pledge any additional money for schools. We’ll have a full update soon.

4 p.m. No school Wednesday

Once again, the city has made it official: Classes are canceled for Wednesday, the fifth school day off for 300,000 Chicago students. The city announced the decision in a replica of the tweet it used on Monday.

Why make the call before city-union talks end for the day? Schools CEO Janice Jackson answered on Twitter on Monday: “Families asked us to notify them earlier so they could plan childcare,” she wrote. “So, instead of waiting for negotiations to end, we’re going to update families at 4 p.m. if the union has not scheduled their House of Delegates to take a vote to end the strike. I hope this change is helpful.”

3 p.m. What the union bargaining team did today

For the first three days of the teacher strike, teachers on the Chicago Teachers Union’s 40-member bargaining team joined union officials at negotiations. Today, they dispersed to local schools to answer their colleagues’ questions about the strike, while top union officials sat down again with City Hall negotiators.

The role of the bargaining team has emerged as a point of tension in the city-union dispute. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said the union’s decision to bring dozens of teachers has slowed down talks. (The union says it’s better to have teachers with specific expertise in special education, for example, review proposals related to special education.) But City Hall also criticized the union after it announced late Monday that it would not bring the entire negotiating team to the table today.

2:30 p.m. Lightfoot’s other big agenda item

The teacher strike isn’t Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s only priority this week. On Wednesday morning, she’s also set to deliver her annual budget address laying out spending priorities for the city. How she handles education should be interesting, since so much spending is still under fierce debate — and because the main thrust of the address will surely be the city’s $838 million budget gap.

Teachers are likely to rally outside the address, held in City Council chambers at City Hall. Asked this morning what she would do if teacher protests disrupted her speech, Lightfoot said she would press on.

“We have work that needs to be done in the city, and we’re going to do that,” the mayor said. “Yes, there is a teacher strike but the business of the city must, and will, and does go on.”

1:52 p.m. Plans for Thursday

The Chicago Teachers Union just announced a protest strategy for Thursday, adding to its public stance that the strike is not headed for a speedy resolution. (It’s only Tuesday now, in case you’re keeping track. If you’re having trouble, we feel you.)

1:30 p.m. Talent show

Without classes to pour their talents into this week, teachers have been bringing their sideshow skills to the picket line. See teachers from Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy in Brighton Park:

Strike Day 3! Keeping morale up at Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy!

Posted by Liz's Journey on Tuesday, October 22, 2019

And here’s Rachel Brown singing her riff on Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.” The song, which has 90,000 views, includes the lyrics, “Why mayors great ’til they gotta be great? I just took a DNA test — turns out I’m 100% on strike.”

#CTUStrike2019 Rachel Johnson

Posted by Joe Walters on Thursday, October 17, 2019

12:40 p.m. A teacher’s view

What is the real, day-to-day, student-by-student toll of having overtaxed school counselors? We just published a First Person piece from a teacher who says her students would benefit from the kinds of resources that her own middle school helped her through grief. Writes Kelsey Arsenault:

Shawn’s dad was dead, but there wouldn’t be counseling sessions, “Grief Group,” hall passes, or youth work placements for him. Instead, Shawn returned to school without a single measure of additional support or service to help him through an unimaginable tragedy beyond the kind words that my colleagues and I offered. Our school social worker was only part-time and had an overflowing workload. Our school counselor was similarly burdened and constantly pulled to do other administrative tasks, rarely having the opportunity to actually help students.

12 p.m. Remember the elected school board

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. What Warren said

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 added,” “Unions are how we have power.” Her visit came the day after she released a comprehensive education plan that 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.

Warren isn’t the first presidential candidate to visit with Chicago teachers. Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker have also stopped by, and Joe Biden, Julian Castro, and others have offered support on social media.

10 a.m. A $500 million price tag

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, center, and schools chief Janice Jackson visit Marwen youth arts center, which is providing care and meals for schoolchildren during the teachers strike, on Oct. 22, 2019. (Cassie Walker Burke / Chalkbeat)

Speaking at the nonprofit Marwen youth center, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson emphasized that the city cannot afford additional concessions. City Hall has estimated that what negotiators already have agreed to grant the union will cost $500 million more than the previous teachers contract costs.

“We have to live within our means,” said Lightfoot, who said she and Jackson sent a letter to union leaders Monday outlining the need to hold the line on additional costs.

“We want to make sure there is a full appreciation of CPS’ financial position,” Jackson told reporters. “This idea that we are flush with cash and just sitting on it and not spending it is just not true.”

The union has argued that the district’s improved financial position — and the additional money it is getting from the state through a funding formula revamped in 2017 — puts it in a position to afford costly demands, such as additional support staff, lower class size caps, and raises for teachers and paraprofessionals.

But independent analysis of the district’s budget has shown that the district is only getting about $60 million more each year for schools and instruction than under the previous funding formula. Another $200 million or so is earmarked for teachers’ pensions. (The district is also the second-most indebted in the country, behind Los Angeles.)

During her press conference at Marwen, which is providing care and meals for out-of-school children, Lightfoot again exhorted the union to hasten the strike’s end. “We have been making progress,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that the [union’s] larger bargaining team decided to take the day off. There should be a sense of urgency all around.”

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. “What matters is what people of Chicago know and understand.”

9:45 a.m. Who’s going to school?

The school district said its 507 campuses collectively reported that 6,289 students showed up Monday — about 2% of enrollment. 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

Parents and teachers fill a park in Logan Square for a rally supporting striking teachers on Oct. 22, 2019. (Bree McKenna)

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

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

8:30 a.m. A second walkout

Chicago Public Schools teachers joined Passages charter school teachers as they began their own strike Oct. 22, 2019. (Regina Wiethop)

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.

7 a.m. In other negotiations

The Chicago Teachers Union isn’t the only city union on strike. Members of Service Employees International Union 73 also reported no deal Monday, saying their bargaining session ended in a record 12 minutes.

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.