CHICAGO - The Chicago Teachers Union is on strike on Thursday in the nation's third-largest school district.
The union rejected the Chicago Public Schools' last offer on Wednesday night. More than 25,000 teachers and support staff will now strike and the impact on the city from this action is expected to be very significant: Classes will be shut down for more than 350,000 students, with 500 schools being picketed by teachers.
Beyond that, there is a planned rally and march by the teachers' union, which is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, which will take place in downtown Chicago.
"After more than 10 months of frustrating bargaining, over 25,000 CTU teachers, clinicians, teaching assistants and support staff are officially on strike as of today, Thursday, October 17 ... Educators are fighting for conditions that include smaller class sizes, adequate staffing — from social workers and school nurses to librarians and teachers for English language learners and special education students — and living wages for paraprofessionals," the Chicago Teacher's Union said in a statement.
What is the city's offer:
Chicago has offered the union a 16 percent raise over the course of a five-year contract, while also saying that teachers' health care costs will not increase for three years. Given that the current annual salary for Chicago teachers who are just starting out is already $52,958 -- the highest salary for teachers in the state of Illinois -- the city asserts that it has put a legitimate good-faith offer on the negotiating table.
The union disagrees and is looking for a 15 percent raise over the course of a three-year contract -- taking issue with how much its health care costs could go up in the final two years of the city's contract offer. The union also asserts that it will, in the end, make $15,000 dollars less than the city says it will at the end of the city's contract offer.
Why wasn't it accepted:
The teachers union has various reasons for not accepting the city's offer. It says that the schools need more funding for more staff -- including nurses, librarians and social workers -- and it wants to make sure it gets that. The union knows about the city's vow to add at least 200 social worker positions and at least 250 full-time nurse positions but has made it clear that the only way to make sure the city follows through on its promises is to put it in writing in the next contract.
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Jesse Sharkey speaks outside Peirce Elementary School on the first day of a strike by the CTU, on October 17 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)
The union is also asking for smaller class sizes in order to create a better environment for learning, saying classes are currently more crowded than city statistics would have people believe. That disagreement is partly why the union wants a contract provision that calls for teachers to receive an extra $5 a day per student whenever their classes exceed the mandated size limit of 31 students. The teachers are also looking for housing subsidies -- since they are required to live in Chicago -- much like police and firefighters receive.
“We are offering a historic package on the core issues — salary, staffing and class size,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.