Chicago teachers striking in nation's 3rd largest district

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago parents and community groups are scrambling to prepare for a massive teachers' strike set to begin Thursday, prompting the city to preemptively cancel classes in the nation's third-largest school district.

The Chicago Teachers Union confirmed Wednesday night that its 25,000 members would not return to their classrooms Thursday after months of negotiation between the union and Chicago Public Schools failed to resolve disputes over pay and benefits, class size and teacher preparation time.

The strike is Chicago's first major walkout by teachers since 2012 and city officials announced early Wednesday that all classes had been canceled for Thursday in hopes of giving more planning time to the parents of more than 300,000 students.

"We want this to be a short strike with an agreement that will benefit our schools and our teachers. We have a ways to go," Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said during a union news conference. "We actually want to see improvement on all the issues we are talking about here."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was disappointed by the union's decision to strike.

"We are offering a historic package on the core issues — salary, staffing and class size," she said Wednesday night at her own news conference, adding that school district negotiators will remain at the bargaining table and that she hopes the union does, too.

51 PHOTOS
Denver teachers go on strike
See Gallery
Denver teachers go on strike
Rebecca Basal uses a bullhorn to lead fellow striking teachers in a chant as they walk a picket line outside the school early Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Denver. The strike on Monday is the first for teachers in Colorado in 25 years after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Teachers carry placards as they walk a picket line outside South High School early Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Denver. The strike on Monday is the first for teachers in Colorado in 25 years after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Teachers carry placards as they walk a picket line outside South High School early Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Denver. The strike on Monday is the first for teachers in Colorado in 25 years after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Teachers carry placards as they walk a picket line outside South High School early Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Denver. The strike on Monday is the first for teachers in Colorado in 25 years after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Ollie wears a protest sign as his owner, Ryan Marini, walks a picket line outside the school where he works as a teacher, South High School, early Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Denver. The strike on Monday is the first for teachers in Colorado in 25 years after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Teachers carry placards as they walk a picket line outside South High School early Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Denver. The strike on Monday is the first for teachers in Colorado in 25 years after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, file photo, teachers from the Denver Public Schools carry placards as they wait to march after a rally in support of a strike outside the State Capitol in Denver. Denver teachers are planning to strike Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Teachers carry placards as they walk a picket line outside South High School early Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Denver. The strike on Monday is the first for teachers in Colorado in 25 years after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE- In this Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019 file photo, Margaret Flynn, front, a 7th-grade teacher in Denver Public Schools, leads other teachers in a march during a rally outside the state Capitol in Denver. Denver teachers are vowing to walk off the job Monday, Feb. 11, unless they can reach a last-minute pay agreement with school leaders. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2019, file photo, Denver Public Schools teachers rally outside the State Capitol in Denver. Denver teachers are planning to strike Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 after failed negotiations with the school district over base pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2019, file photo, Denver Public Schools teachers carry placards as they wait to march after a rally in support of a strike outside the State Capitol in Denver. Teachers plan to strike next week after Colorado officials declined to intervene in a pay dispute between the educators and the school district. State officials said Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, they believe the two sides are close to a negotiated agreement. Gov. Jared Polis said he expects the Denver Public Schools system and the union representing teachers to keep talking through the week to try to avoid a strike. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
A teacher holds a placard during a rally by teachers from the Denver Public Schools outside the State Capitol late Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Denver. Teachers have authorized a strike for the first time in 25 years but bargaining is set to resume Thursday while both sides wait on word to see if Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will enter into the pay dispute. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, file photo, teachers from the Denver Public Schools march away from the State Capitol after a rally in support of a strike against the school district in Denver. Denver's school district and teachers are resuming contract negotiations for the first time since teachers voted to strike. Superintendent Susana Cordova says the district will present a new proposal when both sides meet Thursday evening. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Aiden Beatty, a Ralston Valley senior, stands in solidarity with East High School teachers during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: East High School teachers are reflected in a window beneath a sign bearing a quote by Michelle Obama reading, 'There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made,' during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Art teacher Laura Klein wears a decretive headband as she pickets with fellow East High School Teachers during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: CU Boulder graduate worker Gregor Robinson stands in solidarity with East High School teachers during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: East High School teachers picket during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: East High School sophomores Waverly Reeves (left) and Annika Shassetz march with teachers during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: East High school teachers, students and supports picket in front of the school during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: A curious dog watches as educators picket during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Senior Matt Pence holds a speaker over his head as it blares Public Enemy's seminal hit 'Fight the Power,' as East High School teachers picket during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: East High School students stand in support of teachers during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some students walked out due to lack of organization and structure within the school, while others simply chose to walk out in support. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: East High School teachers picket during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Spanish teacher Lauren Tauchman leads a chant as teachers picket at East High School during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Spanish teacher Lauren Tauchman leads a chant as teachers picket at East High School during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Students arrive for classes as teachers picket at East High School during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver teachers, students and community members picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Teachers picket in front of East High School during a Denver Public Schools teachers strike on Monday, February 11, 2019. Some 2,100 educators did not report for work on Monday during day one of the first DPS strike in 25 years. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver teachers, students and community members picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver teachers, students and community members picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: South High School freshman Adelaide Funnell, right, holds a sign as she joins her teachers on the picket line outside the school on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: South High School seniors Johnny Hultzapple, left, Aislinn Thompson, center, and Esperanza Soledad Garcia, right, lead students on a walkout to join their striking teachers on the picket line on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: South High School students cheer as they join their teachers on the picket line outside the school on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver teachers, students and community members picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: A South High School student cheers from the shoulders of another student as they stage a walkout in support of their striking teachers on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: South High School students hold signs and cheer as they stage a walkout in support of their striking teachers on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: A South High School student cheers from the shoulders of another student as they stage a walkout in support of their striking teachers on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Karmen Kirtley, who has been a teacher for 18 years, pickets outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: South High School students stage a walkout in support of their striking teachers on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver teachers, students and community members picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver teachers, students and community members picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: South High School ninth grade teacher Tessa Zatorski, left, chants while picketing outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver teacher strike outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER CO - FEBRUARY 11: A Denver teacher brought his dog during the strike outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver Public Schools teachers and members of the community picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver Public Schools teachers and members of the community picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver Public Schools teachers and members of the community picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver Public Schools teachers and members of the community picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver high school social studies teacher Nick Childers chants as teachers picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Denver Classroom Teachers Association president Henry Roman, left, and lead negotiator for DCTA Rob Gould, right, talk to the media outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months of contract negations over teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

During the 2012 strike, the district kept some schools open for half days during a seven-day walkout. District officials said this time they will keep all buildings open during school hours, staffed by principals and employees who usually work in administrative roles.

Breakfast and lunch will be served, but all after-school activities and school buses are suspended in the district serving more than 300,000 students.

Janice Jackson, the district's CEO, encouraged parents to send their children to the school that they normally attend, however they will be welcome in any district schools.

"We've put together a really comprehensive plan for the students," Jackson said. "We will make sure they are safe and they have a productive day."

Also striking will be 7,000 support staffers, whose union also failed to reach a contract agreement.

Before the strike announcement, June Davis said if teachers walked out, she would likely send her 7-year-old son, Joshua, to his usual elementary school — Smyth Elementary on the city's South Side where almost all students are low-income and minority.

Davis, 38, said she would otherwise have to take her son to his grandmother's in a southern suburb, requiring an hourlong trip on a regional bus line.

"Everybody's hoping they will come to some kind of agreement, find some compromise," Davis said.

Lightfoot preemptively announced that classes on Thursday would be canceled, saying she wanted to give parents more time to plan. A clearly frustrated Lightfoot said the city had not only offered a 16% pay raise over the five-year contract, but the city also had agreed to put language in the contract addressing "enforceable targets" on class size and increasing staffing levels for positions such as nurses, librarians and social workers — items the union said were critical.

She said the union's demands would cost an unaffordable $2.5 billion per year.

Union leaders disputed Lightfoot's characterization of the city's willingness to concede to their demands on several issues, including class sizes.

"CPS' current class size offer falls far short of what's needed to address the sweeping scale of the problem," they said in a statement.

Lightfoot said the city agreed to make substantial changes on some of the union's top priorities, but its negotiators responded by issuing additional demands, including some she deemed unacceptable.

"The union is still demanding to shorten instructional time by 30 minutes in the morning," she said. "We won't do that. We will not cheat our children out of instructional time."

Before heading into a downtown law firm for bargaining talks Wednesday morning, union vice president Stacy Davis Gates said there is a "gross disconnect" between Lightfoot's comments and what negotiators have put in writing.

"To say that you have offered a proposal that respects what we are asking for, to say you've bent over backward ... it's absolutely ridiculous," Davis Gates said.

Community organizations have been preparing for days to welcome students, ranging from a $100 per day camp for elementary school kids at the Shedd Aquarium to all-day programs run by the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago and accessible for a $20 annual membership fee.

Mimi LeClair, president of the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, said a strike is particularly difficult for single parents and those whose jobs have inflexible schedules.

"It's a horrendous dilemma, deciding between likely losing their job or having their paycheck docked when they rely on every penny or leaving their children home alone," LeClair said.

The city's public libraries also are planning programs for students, along with a network of churches and community centers that are part of the city's Safe Haven program intended to give kids a safe place during the summer months particularly on the city's South and West sides.

The YMCA of Metro Chicago expects highest demand for its all-day programs for children between the ages of 5 and 12, who are too young to stay home alone but whose parents may oppose sending them to schools unstaffed by teachers.

"Real life still happens," said Man-Yee Lee, a spokeswoman for the organization. "Parents still need to go to work and their kids still need somewhere to go."

Read Full Story