The Chicago Teachers Union has been on strike for eight school days. The strike began on Oct. 17 and stretched through the following week as CTU and Chicago Public Schools have failed to reach a deal on a new contract.
The implications of the strike? 360,000 students out of school, student-athletes forced to forfeit at the state level, a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA)–and there’s still no end in sight.
A lawsuit was filed Thursday against IHSA and the Chicago Board of Education regarding students not being allowed to compete at the state level during the strike. Since the strike’s beginning on Oct. 17, all girls tennis teams have had to forfeit their matches in the state competition. Boys football and soccer teams have also had to forfeit every game since Oct. 17.
There was a briefing at the Daley Center Thursday regarding the lawsuit against IHSA. The court decided against allowing cross country teams to participate in regionals Saturday as a result of the strike.
“All CPS schools except charter schools cannot compete in IHSA competition as of now,” Andrew Blackledge, a junior at Jones College Prep, said. “So state, sectionals, regionals, that’s all done.”
Schools are hosting their own races to make up for the lack of play. Whitney M. Young Magnet High School hosted a two-mile race on the day of sectionals to allow CPS runners to compete on the day they would’ve been at sectionals. Two companies are also in the process of organizing a city-state meet for the city teams who were not able to compete in the state competition.
The Jones, Payton, Lane and Taft cross country teams showed up to the regional competition to “respect” and “support” the other teams running, even though they couldn’t run, Blackledge said.
“It was kind of miserable,” Blackledge said. “But the thought was there.”
The Whitney Young girls tennis team created an Instagram account to spread awareness of how their team’s future is suffering as a result of the strike. According to the team’s Instagram page, CPS is considering allowing the boys soccer teams to compete in their state games, but have blocked Class 1A and Class 2A girls tennis teams from competing at the same level.
The Walter Payton College Prep girls tennis team is in a similar position. The team had to forfeit their sectional match and as a result could not qualify for the state competition. Payton junior Nyah Brown would have been one of four tennis players that qualified for the state tournament if the girls had been allowed to compete.
“We can technically qualify for state so that’s why there’s been a big push to get the IHSA to let us even though we didn’t [get to compete in sectionals],” Brown said.
The Payton tennis team was not able to compete in the state competition since the teacher strike lasted through Thursday, the competition’s first day.
The athletic disadvantage the strike creates also affects students hoping to play at the college level. For seniors trying to get recruited by colleges or wanting to include playing at the state level on their resumes, the strike restricts what they’re able to add to their portfolios.
“There’s so many opportunities taken away from seniors, which is really upsetting,” Brown said.
Talks between the CTU and the city have yet to produce a deal sufficient for the teachers. The teachers are fighting for smaller class sizes, more support for students and more prep time ahead of classes. The hiring of school social workers, nurses and librarians are among the primary focus of the strike.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot says that the city cannot afford what the CTU is demanding, claiming the union’s demands would cost the city $2.5 million.
“I must be responsible for the taxpayers who pay for everything that’s going on,” Lightfoot said in a press conference Oct. 16.
“They manage to find money for things like interest to the banks and expensive private contractors, but won't spend money on basic needs like a nurse and librarian in every school,” CTU Research Coordinator Carol Caref said in an email to NBN.
A clear difference in opinion between the CTU and Lightfoot has contributed to the delays in reaching a deal, according to Lightfoot. Lightfoot shared CPS’ current offer on Twitter Oct. 18. CPS entitled the offer one that “Honors our Teachers’ Hard Work and Dedication.”
The offer includes an average salary rise to approximately $100,000 for every teacher, as well as $1 million dedicated to reducing class sizes and $400,000 dedicated to the hiring of support staff such as nurses, social workers and case managers. The deal has not yet been accepted by the CTU.
Lightfoot ran a campaign situated on a promise that under her watch as mayor, a teacher strike would not occur. But the reality of the now 11-day strike seems to indicate otherwise.
“As far as Lightfoot's promises, we feel that it is one thing to say during an election campaign that you want better things for students,” Caref said in the email. “But evidently it is another thing to actually provide those things.”
“You’d think it’d be relaxing,” Blackledge said. “But it’s honestly more stressful.”