Live updates from the Chicago teachers strike Day 10: a pivotal 24 hours

Wednesday started with teachers on picket lines facing a snowy, rainy mix and is ending with a dramatic split vote by the teachers union representative body to accept a tentative agreement. Read on for details.

Scroll down for today’s recap. 

9:30 p.m. No school

Chicago Public Schools cancels classes for an 11th day. Mayor Lori Lightfoot holds a briefing minutes later at City Hall, where she says she is “gravely disappointed” in the union’s decision to insert a late-in-the-game demand to make up missed days. Here’s what she said.

8:30 p.m. Union body accepts tentative pact

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates, in a split vote, agreed Wednesday night on a tentative contract hammered out by city and union negotiators. But they placed one condition on their vote – that the mayor agree to let the members make up their missed days and earn back pay.

If Mayor Lori Lightfoot agrees, the deal potentially ends a 10-day strike and sends the district’s 25,000 teachers back to work.

It is not clear whether the district’s more than 300,000 students will return to school Thursday. We will keep updating our story.

7:05 p.m. The full offer

Here’s the first full look we’ve seen of the tentative offer that the union’s 700 or so delegates are weighing tonight, plus some changes we didn’t know before. Click here for the story.

6:00 p.m. Gaming out the scenario

We’ve been gaming out the possible scenarios with sources behind the scenes of possible outcomes of the House of Delegates meeting scheduled to start about now.

Here are four we are hearing, with the obvious caveat that this strike has been full of twists and turns that make a finale hard to predict:

1. The 700-person body approves the tentative agreement, votes to end the strike, and 300,000 students return to school Thursday after missing 10 days of instruction.
2. The delegates approves the deal, but vote to continue the strike and hold out for makeup days, a demand the union leadership surfaced today for leverage. Strike continues an 11th day.
3. The delegates say no deal. Strike continues an 11th day.
4. The delegate meeting goes too late for Chicago Public Schools to notify parents or another issue drags the matter on, and, well, the strike continues for an 11th day.

5:45 p.m. The “other strike” is official over, sort of

Support staff in Chicago schools agreed to a five-year deal, but their strike is not totally over. Members of SEIU Local 73 Wednesday afternoon overwhelmingly ratified a contract with raises ranging from 17% to 40% over time. But its leaders asked them to honor picket lines until the teachers union settles its fight with Chicago Public Schools.

Still, recognizing the economic pinch of the district’s lowest-paid workers, the union pledged that its members who do return to work won’t be considered scabs.

5:35 p.m. Tallying it up

While we’re waiting, we looked at the city’s latest offer and see that the promises made Tuesday to increase class size by $10 million and veteran pay by $5 million have been factored into the math.

That makes the set of proposals, by the last year of the contract, add up to a full $500 million more each year than the union’s previous $2.6 billion contract.

5:15 p.m. Waiting, waiting

No word yet on makeup days, but a meeting of the union’s House of Delegates is on. Chicago Public Schools said it will inform families of the outcome — and whether there will be school — as soon as it is aware by email, social media, and its website. Also this: “Please be aware that we will not send robocalls after 8 p.m.”


3:48 p.m. A big update

We just got this announcement from the Chicago Teachers Union: “The CTU may have reached a monumental agreement and wants to convene its HoD to suspend the strike.”

But the message says the makeup days issue still stands in the way.

Members of the House of Delegates were told there is definitely a meeting tonight.

3:20 p.m. #AlmostThere

No House of Delegates meeting has been called, but the Chicago Teachers Union’s second-in-command just said the union and city “may have reached a monumental agreement.” Except … she suggests that whether and how to make up the school days missed because of the strike could be holding up a deal.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has previously vowed not to make up the time, and according to Stacy Davis Gates, that hasn’t changed today.

3:15 p.m. In other news

Chicago’s schools may be in disarray at the moment but the rest of the education apparatus is still ticking away. We just published three stories about newly released data about how well the city’s and state’s schools are doing: about state report card scores, why fewer schools in Chicago and statewide are getting the lowest state rating, and Chicago’s scores on an exam known as “the nation’s report card.”

1 p.m. “You’ve already won,” AFT chief says

As rank-and-file Chicago teachers began deciding what they think about the city’s latest contract offer, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten offered her take during visits to picket lines this morning. According to tweets from the national union, she told striking teachers that their passion reminds her of her mother, who went on strike for six weeks as a New York City teacher in 1968, but also that they have changed the conversation nationally.

“I know you will win because you’ve already won,” she said, according to an AFT tweet.

12:45 p.m. A social worker weighs in

In this first-person view, school social worker Elizabeth Weiss writes about the intricacies of job — one that, even before the strike, was in big demand and short supply. She’ll likely be joined soon by new colleagues, since the latest round of proposals would put a social worker at every school by 2023.

But challenges will remain, despite what’s settled in an eventual contract. “Now that I am on the ground, working in two schools, I can see that the challenges are very real,” Weiss writes. “I can also see that investments by the city are beginning to pay off. And I can see that more will need to change if Chicago Public Schools is to become a desirable employer for social workers.”

11:45 a.m. An informal poll of informal polls

Teachers in at least some union meetings this morning were asked to cast advisory votes on the offer. We’ve heard about one school where teachers endorsed the current round of contract proposals from the city — and three where the majority wanted to keep striking. At Lane Technical High School, we’re told, teachers were divided.

What issues are arising? We’ve heard that prep time, pay for veteran teachers, and class size are still weighing heavily on teachers.

A teacher at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy declined to say whether his school’s teachers had taken an advisory vote. But he said they remained “deeply concerned” with some elements of the city’s offer.

10 a.m. Where are the teachers?

In churches, public buildings, private homes, and coffee shops, groups of teachers are meeting this morning to talk through the city’s latest contract offer to their union. In small-scale versions of what happened at Tuesday’s House of Delegates meeting, the teachers are not actually discussing a tentative agreement — there isn’t one — but are walking through what’s on the table to give the union’s 700 delegates information about whether members are satisfied or prefer to continue their strike.

During the 2012 strike, the union gave members a full day after reaching a tentative agreement to review it before the vote to return to work.

Today’s meetings could reflect an effort to speed up that timeline now. The union has said it will hold another House of Delegates meeting today if a tentative agreement is reached today. If there is an agreement, and if the deal closely reflects what is in the offer members are reviewing, and if members understand it and are satisfied, there could in theory be a vote to end the strike. But that’s a lot of ifs.

9:30 a.m. Lori Lightfoot’s morning

Mayor Lori Lightfoot read a book about a girl who wants to become a teacher to children on the 10th day of Chicago’s teacher strike. (Ariel Cheung/Chalkbeat)

As the 10th day of the teachers strike began, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wasn’t surprised by the length of the strike — and remains hopeful that it could end soon.

“There’s a lot of work that we could have done sooner, but we didn’t start to do really until the strike,” Lightfoot said. “I believe that our team has negotiated in good faith from day one, and day one started back this summer, after I came into office.”

The mayor spent some time with children at Kennicott Park in the Kenwood neighborhood Wednesday morning reading “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” a story about a young girl who wants to become a teacher.

Lightfoot said she was hopeful that the union’s House of Delegates would meet later in the day to vote on the city’s offer, although she acknowledged there had been no commitment from the union to do so.

“This has been a long journey, and unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of harm that’s been done to our young people,” Lightfoot said.

7:30 a.m. Nation’s report card

Some picket line reading from our Chalkbeat colleagues Kalyn Belsha and Philissa Cramer: National scores are in from the test known as the nation’s report card, and there are drops across the board in reading. The test, formally known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is administered by the federal government to a nationally representative sample of students in every state and many major cities.

The declines prompt the Council of Chief State School Officers to say it would convene a conference of state schools chiefs and literacy experts on the topic.

In Chicago, scores are largely flat. 

6:30 a.m. Snow? Snow!

The season’s first signs of snow, mixed with rain, fall as teachers trudge back to picket lines. Wednesday’s actions include picket lines at schools and a noon rally at the corner of Clark and Roosevelt near a real estate development known as “The 78.”

Nine teachers were arrested Tuesday during a protest a West Loop real estate developer and released in the evening, raising possibility of similar actions Wednesday.

Wednesday is the release of the state’s report card, which shows district- and school-level data on a battery of assessments, from the state standardized Illinois Assessment of Readiness (formerly the PARCC) to the SAT to the ACCESS test for English language learners.

There has been some discussion at the bargaining table about school-level decision making around standardized tests, but there doesn’t appear to be much movement on the issue in negotiations. 

Other outstanding issues include the issue of teacher prep time — here’s how Chicago stacks up to other cities on how much time teachers get — plus changes to teacher evaluations and how many sick days teachers can bank. There’s also the thorny issue of legislative support for the union’s agenda in Springfield. Lightfoot said Tuesday politics don’t belong in the contract.

Teachers face another deadline: The potential of losing health insurance if the week ends without a deal.

The next 24 hours are pivotal. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson said Tuesday evening they had sweetened the city’s offer again with additional money for class size reductions (going from $25 million to $35 million annually) and more pay for veteran teachers. “This is a message to the CTU leadership: You can end the strike,” the mayor said.

Union leaders said they would spend Wednesday morning looking over the city’s latest offers, as 300,000 children remain out of school for a 10th day.