Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union to hold first public bargaining session

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates stands behind microphones and next to parents and teachers holding signs outside George Washington High School.
Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union will hold its first open bargaining session Friday night to discuss “healthy, safe, and green schools.” Pictured: CTU President Stacy Davis Gates is joined by parents and teachers outside George Washington High School ahead of school days expected to experience soaring heat. (Facebook)

Sign up for Chalkbeat Chicago’s free daily newsletter to keep up with the latest education news.

Chicagoans will get a window into collective bargaining between the city’s public school district and its teachers union at a first-of-its-kind meeting Friday night.

Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union will hold a public bargaining session at Marquette Elementary in the city’s West Lawn neighborhood on the South Side. As of midday Wednesday, registration to attend in person had reached capacity, but officials said it will be livestreamed on YouTube.

But at Friday night’s session — held on the first weekend of summer break — the two sides do not plan to discuss any provisions of the current CTU contract, such as those dealing with class size limits, pay raises, or other benefits. Instead, they plan to discuss “healthy, safe, and green schools.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former teachers union organizer, made “green schools” part of his education platform last year. School facilities are typically dealt with in the district’s capital budget, which had its own series of public hearings already this year.

Tonight’s meeting is another sign of a more friendly relationship between the two parties.

The CTU’s current contract expires on June 30. Last week, CPS posted their opening proposals online and sent an email to parents sharing more information about how they will approach labor negotiations. CTU has posted their proposals online for members to access using a passcode, and the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, published a copy of the union’s ideas to their website.

While there is a lot for the two sides to sort out, one thing seems certain: Chicago’s new, partially elected school board likely won’t have much say over the teachers union contract during board members’ first few years on the job.

Though the length of the contract won’t be discussed Friday, the dueling proposals put forward by both sides would lock a new contract in place that would last through the first two rounds of school board elections.

CPS is proposing a five-year contract that would expire on June 30, 2029, while CTU is putting forward a four-year deal expiring on May 1, 2028.

Ten new school board members will be elected from 10 districts on Nov. 5, 2024. Those 10, plus 11 appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson, will be sworn in on Jan. 15, 2025. In November 2026, 20 members will be elected from 20 districts and the school board president will be elected at-large.

The current contract is a five-year deal that began after a 12-day strike in 2019, but negotiations between CPS and CTU occurred multiple times during the COVID pandemic around schools returning to in-person learning. The previous contract covered three school years starting in 2016, and the one negotiated in 2012 ended up being four years.

It’s common for public sector labor agreements to extend through one or more election cycles, said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment at the University of Illinois.

“Things like school board elections, things like a mayoral and city council elections, really should not be first and foremost,” Bruno said.

“They should bring a package forward that says, ‘This will be good for the district, it’ll be good for students, and it’s affordable, and teachers, our employees will be supportive of it,’” Bruno said.

A CPS spokesperson said the district wants a five-year contract “to ensure stability and predictability” to allow the district “to more effectively plan our academic and operational programming, supports, and services.”

A CTU representative said school board elections did not factor into their proposal for a four-year contract. The representative added that the union supports giving parents and communities more say over the public school system through an elected board.

Becky Vevea is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Chicago. Contact Becky at bvevea@chalkbeat.org.

The Latest

Alicia Alvarez helps students at Western International High School in southwest Detroit to envision, and obtain, a path to higher education. But there’s no shortage of obstacles standing in the way.

Success Academy and Zeta Charter Schools won three schools each. But an unconventional middle school geared toward LGBTQ+ students was left out.

Schools would have to come up with their own policies on how to ban phones and would not get additional funding, principals told Chalkbeat.

Critics say Lee’s education platform promotes segregation and inequality.

Critics urge the district to push for more funding — and more spending — rather than cuts.

The location shift comes after the board’s regular meeting room was damaged by a water leak in a neighboring business.