PILSEN — The head of Chicago Public Schools discounted the threat of a teacher strike Tuesday, but the union wasn't backing down from talk of a possible walkout at some point this fall, if not at the start of the school year.
"We are at the negotiating table. I don't see any reason why we should not be able to come to an agreement" with the Chicago Teachers Union, said CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool, who was at a Whittier Elementary back-to-school event where he was praised for opening the schools on time this fall.
"Teachers do important work," Claypool added. "We want to give them as generous a contract as we can possibly provide given the dollars that are available."
Claypool said the district has offered to hike teachers' pay.
"We have a generous raise on the table. We're asking the teachers' union to accept a raise."
The union didn't seem exactly eager to accept the offer.
"Mr. Claypool's latest effort to strong-arm teachers into giving up even more pay and benefits by threatening harm to their classrooms is not to be taken lightly," said union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin. "We've been clear: No more cuts. We've spent the last year trying to bargain in good faith while being stonewalled, threatened and vilified by the now fifth school CEO since 2010.
"He seems to ignore the fact that we live in the city and pay taxes, and CTU members have seen their pay frozen and then cut with furloughs, have seen over $1 billion diverted from their pension fund, have seen contractually guaranteed raises canceled and have witnessed conditions in schools worsen throughout layoffs and privatization deals," she added.
"No educator wants to strike for the sake of striking," Gadlin said. "If they do so, it is because they must protect their students and their profession from technocrats who don't realize these are real lives they are messing with."
According to Gadlin, the union leapt the legal hurdles required to go on strike in the spring, before declaring in May that teachers would finish out the school year. Teachers could go out on strike at any time, she added, but the union's House of Delegates could also ask for another strike vote, as the last vote was taken late in the school year.
Gadlin said that wouldn't be determined until Sept. 7 at the first House of Delegates meeting of the new school year — and the day after classes are scheduled to begin.
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