Classes Canceled for 400,000 Students as Chicago Teacher Strike

October 17, 2019 Updated: October 17, 2019

Some 400,000 students across Chicago don’t have to go to class on Thursday after 25,000 teachers began a strike after negotiators failed to agree on a contract.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) failed to make a deal after months of negotiations, ABC7 reported.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey, in a news conference outside Peirce Elementary School, said that there “is a pent up frustration from our membership about what conditions are like in our schools.”

The strike is the first major one by teachers since 2012.

Sharkey added to The Associated Press: “As of right now, as of this moment, we have still not seen those promises in writing. That’s important and frankly it’s important what the words actually are. We don’t want a half measure, we want some of these basic conditions completely addressed.”

Chicago teachers were asking for more pay, smaller class sizes, and more staffing, WGN reported. The union also wanted the city to give new teachers and homeless students access to low-income housing.

Parents were encouraged to register their children online for the duration of the strike as all CPS schools will serve breakfast and lunch to students.

Chicago Transit buses are also offering free rides for students amid the strike.

Teacher John Houlihan, in a protest near Smyth Elementary, stated “we’re not fighting for paychecks and health care. It’s the kids.”

“It’s ridiculous to say that you can put these kids who are dealing with profound poverty and profound homelessness in classes of 30-40 kids,” Houlihan told The Associated Press. “That’s not manageable and it is not an environment for learning.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, said she isn’t pleased by the move to strike.

“We are offering a historic package on the core issues—salary, staffing and class size,” she said on Wednesday.

The city, she said, offered a 16 percent pay raise for teachers and would increase the pay for the average support worker by 38 percent, USA Today reported.

A stock photo of a bus (Illustration – Shutterstock)

Chicago has “bent over backwards” to meet their demands, she remarked.

The CTU’s requests would tack on about $2.5 billion to the annual school district’s budget. That’s “completely irresponsible,” Lightfoot said.

“Since Friday, we’ve discussed a framework that puts enforceable targets on class sizes in high-poverty schools and staffing level supports for personnel in the contract,” she said on Wednesday. “The union said that these were its two most important issues. They wanted us to put it in writing, and that’s exactly what we did.”