CPS, CTU contract talks resume Sunday after 14 hours of negotiating Saturday

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CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools will continue negotiations Sunday after 14 hours of negotiations on Saturday.

Following the marathon bargaining session, CPS officials said they are “not close” where they need to be on key issues.

The CTU said they are about $38 million apart from a deal. The union said that amount will settle their concerns with class size, pay and other issues. One key sticking point is the length of the contract. CPS is pushing for five years and the union wants three years.

“Now when you’re in this stage of negotiations, it’s usually a knot of key issues,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “We haven’t untied that knot yet, we’re trying to get an agreement on the key outstanding issues."

On Sunday morning before negotiations began, CPS officials said the amount they're looking to bridge together is closer to $100 million, not $38 million as the union said.

Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said after 14 hours of negotiating, CPS and CTU are "stuck" on the top key issues; class size and staffing.

McDade said philosophically, CPS and CTU are in agreement on what schools need, but the district needs to be financial responsible.

The district said getting students back in class Monday is a "huge concern," but said they need compromise from the union to make that happen.

"If we are unable to close that divide based on compromise at the table today," McDade said.  "Then it would be hard-pressed to get to a vote to get our kids back in school on Monday."

Saturday, teachers and SEIU members rallied at Union Park as the teachers strike enters its 10th day.

The rally kicked off at 10 a.m. for Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union members to show solidarity to those striking. CTU president Jesse Sharkey was one of many who spoke.

After seven missed school days, bargaining got started Saturday with a vague statement from CPS officials.

“Following the close of negations yesterday evening, there was a breach of trust that gives us some serious concern,”CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said. “Our plan is to address that at the table, and we will continue to bargain in good faith.”

CTU President Jesse Sharkey said he did not know what the breach of trust accusation is referring to.

Sharkey spoke to reporters late Friday evening and said after a full day of talks there has yet to be an agreement.

"We spent a long day of bargaining. Had some progress," he said.

Sharkey said there are a small number of issues remaining, but important ones.

"You start getting to the stuff that matters the most but is the hardest," he said. "Bargaining at that point can be an exercise in trying to manage your emotions, stay cool and work hard.  So that's where we're at right now. ... Hopefully we can get over the hump.  The plan for the weekend is to work... and try to secure an agreement that looks like justice in our schools for our members and our students."

CPS officials also spoke to the media and said Friday's talks were focused on bigger issues of class size and staffing.

"We're being very hopeful and very diligent," CPS chief education officer LaTanya McDade said.

"And it’s about give-and-take at this point," Deputy Mayor for Education Sybil Madison said. "It’s not just about money. It’s a give-and-take.”

Earlier in the day, CTU and Service Employees International Union gathered Friday afternoon at Buckingham Fountain and marched through the South Loop.

Classes were canceled again Friday after Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach a deal to end a week-long strike in the nation's third-largest school district

Sharkey joined teachers for a rally at Lane Tech High School Friday morning, sounding a note of optimism.

"Right now we have progress. I'm not going to say more than that, we're in a sensitive junction right now and I'm optimistic," Sharkey said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot indicated that if a deal wasn't done Friday it, the strike could drag on for several more days.

As of Friday, the strike has matched the length of the 2012 strike, which had kids out of school for seven days.

About 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike Oct. 17, canceling school for more than 300,000 students. The union is expressing hope that classes could resume Monday, however, members will continue picketing until there is a deal.

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Among those feeling the fallout are student-athletes. On Friday, a judge ruled that CPS teams cannot compete in state competitions in cross country, football and other sports if the strike continues.

The parent of a sophomore cross country team member had filed a request for a temporary restraining order in Cook County Court to allow the Jones College Prep team to compete in state playoffs this weekend. Kevin Sterling, who is an attorney, said some athletes had college scholarships on the line, and that the kids had become "collateral damage" in the dispute between CPS and the union.

Simeon Career Academy at 6-1 is ranked third in the state in Class 6A by The Associated Press, but was ineligible for the playoffs because a regular-season game fell through, leaving the team short of the eight required. The IHSA agreed on Friday to waive that rule for Simeon and two other schools, allowing them to be seeded, but rejected Simeon's request to skirt the three-practice requirement.

That means the strike would have to end by Wednesday to give eligible schools a chance to play.

The strike has also taken a toll on students who have to take college entrance exams. The ACT was supposed to be given to hundreds of students Saturday, but that has been postponed.

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