CHICAGO – The Chicago teachers’ strike ended Thursday afternoon with the mayor and the union president agreeing on one last detail: Teachers and students will make up five of the 11 days lost to the historic strike.
Students in the nation’s third-largest school district will return to class Friday.
The strike had idled academics, sports and college prep for about 350,000 students and their families. As it wore on, students missed lessons, state playoff tournaments and an ACT exam date. The gap in instructional time approached the amount experts point to as detrimental to kids’ learning.
Still, parts of the deal could be seen as the latest victory in a wave of labor action by teachers. Since early 2018, teachers have taken charge of education policy debates, marching in the streets and filling state capitols to push for changes in how states educate kids and pay their teachers.
The Chicago strike was longer than nearly every teacher walkout since 2018.
“I’m glad we get to return to work,” said union President Jesse Sharkey on Thursday afternoon. “Frankly, it’s been hard on teachers, on parents, on kids.”
Negotiations came to a dramatic head Wednesday night at a raucous, hours-long meeting of the 700-member governing body of Chicago Teachers Union. Delegates voted by about a 60-40 percent majority to accept a tentative agreement with City Hall but to continue striking Thursday until the mayor agreed to make up lost instructional time – essentially, as the mayor put it, paying them for the days they were striking.
Teachers had gone without pay during the strike, and Lightfoot had been firm about not wanting to extend the school year or cut into scheduled breaks. But by Thursday, she said it was in the interest of everyone to get back to class.
“In the spirit of compromise, we agreed,” she said. “It was a hard-fought discussion, but I think this was the right thing to do for our city.”
Now that the teachers union has voted to accept the tentative agreement with City Hall, the union’s more than 25,000 members will vote on the contract.
Separately, the Service Employees International Union Local 73 – which represents school staff workers such as bus aides, custodians, security officers and special education classroom assistants – announced Wednesday it had voted to ratify its new contract. The union went on strike with teachers on Oct. 17 to demand higher pay for its members, who are among the lowest-paid workers at CPS.