Hundreds of teachers and supporters march in Chicago, Illinois, US. File photo/ Reuters
A teachers’ strike in Chicago moved into the 10th school day on Wednesday, as the teachers’ union and district worked to resolve a contract deadlock over class sizes, support staff levels and pay at the bargaining table.
The strike is the second-longest in a wave of teachers’ strikes that played out across West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and California over the past few years, topped only by a three-week strike in June in Union City, California.
Classes will not be held as the teachers remain on strike, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) said late on Tuesday, hours after the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) met school officials to discuss negotiations, only to continue the stalemate.
“It’s not too late,” CTU president Emerita Karen Lewis said in a statement, imploring Mayor Lori Lightfoot to make a deal.
“Our members have resolve and will not relent when it comes to the families they serve,” she warned Lightfoot, for whom the strike represents the first major political test since election in April.
Neither Lightfoot nor the district issued a statement, apart from announcing that Wednesday’s classes were canceled.
The third-largest school district in the United States has canceled classes for its 300,000 students every school day since the union went on strike on Oct.17, after contract talks failed to yield agreement.
The union, which represents 25,000 teachers who have been without a contract since July 1, voted this month to go on strike if a deal was not reached.
The 825 members of the union’s House of Delegates met behind closed doors on Tuesday for the first time since walking off the job.
As in the earlier walkouts, Chicago teachers had pushed for more money to ease overcrowded classrooms and add nurses, social workers and teaching aides, besides seeking a wage increase.
CTU wants smaller class sizes, more support staff, a contract that runs three years instead of five and more paid prep-time for elementary school teachers.
District officials said on Tuesday they had proposed to spend $25 million to reduce overcrowding in the district and a further $70 million to hire support staff, such as nurses and social workers.
Since the strike’s first day teachers have picketed in front of many of the district’s 500 schools and rallied several times in downtown Chicago.
She has said the district could not afford the union’s full demands, estimating they would cost an extra $2.4 billion each year for an increase of more than 30% in the current school budget of $7.7 billion.
Union leaders representing Chicago's striking teachers said on Wednesday that they approved a tentative contract deal with the school district but that they would not to return to work until the mayor agrees to make up for instructional days lost during the 10-day walkout.
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