CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools have canceled classes for Friday but late Thursday both the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS officials reported "good progress" at contract negotiations.
"Today was a good day," CTU Chief of Staff Jennifer Johnson said. "We're making good progress."
A short time later, CPS officials also held a news conference and echoed the union's statement.
"Today was a good day," CPS chief education officer LaTanya McDade said. "We're encouraged after today's back and forth at the table. We're looking forward to what comes tomorrow. We're hoping to get to a place where our students and teachers are back in the classrooms very soon."
Significant progress and officials said there is hope students would be back in classrooms as soon as Monday, but no deal just yet.
CTU members are planning to gather at Buckingham Fountain Friday, no time was given. There are also plans for a rally Saturday at Union Park.
The nation's third-largest school district has kept school buildings open since the CTU strike began on Oct. 17, but classes and after-school activities have been canceled for more than 300,000 students.
Before bargaining began Thursday, McDade issued a dire warning.
“Many of our students are missing out on key opportunities that can be life changing,” she said. “We’ve rescheduled our PST and SAT assessments to next week. This cannot go into next week. After next week we have students that will not be able to take the PSAT to qualify for national merit scholarships.”
ACT testing planned at six Chicago Public Schools Saturday has been postponed. PSAT and SAT exams set for last weekend were moved to October 30.
CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union report agreement on 80 individual contract issues but major differences remain.
“We’re certainly not making the level of progress on a day to day basis that we need to,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
Special education teachers said earlier Thursday their demands are not being met.
The union warns it is prepared to remain on strike. Members are exploring options for health care should they lose coverage during the work stoppage.
“We’ve got all kinds of plans in place. We’ve got support from our national union on strike loans,” Johnson said.
CPS said its latest offer will raise the average teacher’s salary to $100,000. And it is offering double-digit raises for support staff plus an agreement to provide a full-time nurse and social worker for every school.
Also Thursday, CTU was offering its members civil disobedience training.
Members say they need to get the mayor’s attention.
“We needs to step things up. People are not listening,” Tracy Barrientos said.
“We are here to escalate things,” Jhoanna Maldonado said. “We want a contract just as much as they do and in order for us to achieve that we obvious have to step things up.”