Classes for more than 300,000 Chicago public school students have been canceled for a second day and when they may resume is unclear as striking teachers pressure the city’s public school system for improvements including more nurses and smaller class sizes.
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Barganing on Thursday between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot started in the morning and continued in the afternoon, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson arriving approximately an hour before the final negotiations to offer help, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The union and the CPS were “talking with each other, not at each other,” Jackson, a civil rights activist and former presidential candidate, said afterward. “Each side has some validity. There must be some common ground.”
Not enough was found, however, to reopen schools on Friday. The sides are at odds over how much money the union’s proposals — which also include adding more social workers and counselors — would cost, with Lightfoot putting that figure at $2.5 billion she says the city doesn’t have, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“We’ve made some movement, but it’s still not enough,” union bargaining team member Lori Torres said, according to the Sun-Times. The strike began when the union rejected an offer on Wednesday night, causing 25,000 teachers and support staff to walk off their jobs.
On Thursday morning, teachers picketed schools, and in the afternoon, they joined a protest march downtown. The educators are joined by 7,000 school support staff who haven’t been able to reach a contract either.
“We’re not fighting for paychecks and health care — it’s the kids,” art teacher John Houlihan said outside Smyth Elementary, a predominantly low-income school on the city’s near South Side.
“It’s ridiculous to say that you can put these kids who are dealing with profound poverty and profound homelessness in classes of 30 to 40 kids,” said Houlihan, who picketed with about 20 other teachers and staff as drivers passed by, honking their horns. “That’s not manageable, and it is not an environment for learning.”
“We don’t just want a fast deal,” Jesse Sharkey, president of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, said before leading the teachers on the march downtown. “We are going to hold fast to a just deal.”
Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon tweeted her support for the Chicago Teachers Union strike, writing: “The future is in the hands of our teachers as they shape the minds of our kids & grandkids, yet so many don’t earn a living wage, forcing them to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed hope that a deal with the union is possible.
“What we need is for the union to come back to the table to bargain in good faith, spend the time actually getting a deal done, face to face with us, and not off to the side in a caucus,” she said. “If there is a seriousness of purpose and a willingness on the other side, we could get a deal done today.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.