Chicago Public Schools canceled all classes and activities for Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the district's CEO announced Wednesday morning, in anticipation of the Chicago Teachers Union moving forward with a strike.
"We're assuming that the House of Delegates will vote today to move forward with the strike and as a result, all classes and after-school activities will be canceled tomorrow," CPS CEO Janice Jackson said at a news conference. "This includes team practices and competitions, tutoring, field trips, internships, parent university activities and all other community activities."
"While we will not be able to offer regular instruction during this time, we are going to ensure that all of our school buildings are open so that families have a safe place for students to spend the day and also ensure that they have access to meals throughout the day," Jackson continued, adding that schools would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to all students during the strike.
Jackson noted that regular transportation would not be provided for students during the strike, and staff that regularly provides medical attention, special education or nursing support would not be available as usual, though contract nurses would be available as needed.
"There will not be school tomorrow. The union has been crystal clear that they are going to strike," Lightfoot said. She contended that the district's bargaining team had offered over the course of negotiations "more than 80 proposed changes to the contract on issues requested by the union, including sanctuary school protections, a commitment against privatization, supports for oversize classes, changes in how we serve our special education students and so much more."
"So why don't we have a deal?" Lightfoot asked. "The union has told the public repeatedly that the two issues we need to resolve are class size and staffing and we have met their needs. But behind the scenes, they've continued to bring up additional bargaining issues that they say must be resolved before they can have a contract."
CTU's Vice President Stacy Davis-Gates refuted Lightfoot's claims in a separate press conference Wednesday morning, before the union's bargaining team headed into the final day of negotiations before the strike.
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"Her team, their strategy is to take back everything that we've already won in previous contracts and offer it back to us with percentages," Davis-Gates said. "Not what we have already, not what our students deserve or what we're demanding, but the same thing or less. That's the problem here - there is a gross disconnection between what she says and what's on the table."
"It sounds infuriating because at least we get to have the truth," she continued. "One of the things that under-girds this process is integrity and to say you have offered a proposal that respects what we are asking for, to say that you've bent over backwards and it's the same proposal, not even, less than what's in there now - it's absolutely ridiculous.
CPS officials and CTU's team have met more than 50 times throughout the course of contract negotiations thus far and now, the union is all but certain to ask teachers to walk off the job starting at 12 a.m.
Both sides remain at odds over things like class sizes, staffing shortages, affordable housing and the security of students in areas surrounding schools, among other issues.
CTU's House of Delegates planned to hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss updates in the negotiation process and formally move forward with the strike.
Not among the key issues still up for debate is salary - with CPS' contract offer including a 16% raise that would put the average teacher salary at nearly $100,000 within the next five years. CTU leaders have repeatedly said the potential strike is about more than just money - they claim to want promises made by then-candidate Lightfoot when she was running to be put into writing.
Barring any last minute updates, more than 25,000 teachers and staff will walk off the job Thursday morning at 12 a.m., hitting the picket lines in the nation's third-largest school district.