A day after a contentious bargaining session left the city and its teachers union reeling for solutions, the two sides had a “positive” meeting Saturday that included a new proposal that union leaders say could put them closer to a deal.
The Chicago Teachers Union offer would allow the district to phase in changes to class sizes and staffing over the life of the contract. The district previously said barriers such as a lack of qualified candidates could hurt the chances of quickly finding potentially thousands of new employees.
Instead of immediate solutions across the board, the union said it would accept relief in areas of the city that need the help the most, but CTU President Jesse Sharkey said that any staffing agreement needed to include specific numbers of workers.
“While our proposed outline does not solve all outstanding issues, we believe it does provide the mayor a path,” Sharkey told reporters Saturday afternoon outside the Loop office building of CPS’ head negotiator.
”Not just a path to a settlement — which we at the CTU also want — but a path to a contract which will provide wraparound services, basic education supports, equity and support for neighborhood schools,” Sharkey said.
On class size, the union was still looking for harder caps and enforcement mechanisms, but was also willing to allow those fixes to come over time.
The day started with a more conciliatory tone from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who on Friday charged the CTU with “refusing to negotiate in good faith” after they rejected the city’s “last, best and final offer.”
Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson released a joint statement Saturday morning that said they “remain committed to working diligently on behalf of our children to get a deal done.”
Negotiations will begin again Monday, with the district and city set to meet daily ahead of a Thursday strike deadline.