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Chicago Teachers Strike Ends


Chicago teachers and students returned to school today after a 11-day teachers strike. Teachers walked out less over money than over the quality of Chicago public schools. So what did their strike gain? Here's Sarah Karp from our member station WBEZ.

SARAH KARP, BYLINE: When Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday afternoon the strike was over, she lauded the tentative agreement.


LORI LIGHTFOOT: And I want to thank the House of Delegates for ratifying what is a absolutely historic contract for the CTU.

KARP: From the beginning, Lightfoot argued she was offering a generous compensation package. But the Chicago Teachers Union wanted more. This was union president Jesse Sharkey explaining why teachers were about to go on strike.


JESSE SHARKEY: For better schools, for the conditions that we deserve so that we can lift our heads high and so that all the children in the city of Chicago can know that teachers stand on their side, and we advocate for ourselves and the work that we do.

KARP: And after the strike, Lightfoot did agree to really address some of the broader issues. The union got the school system to agree to put a nurse and a social worker in every school every day - something that's currently unheard of in Chicago public schools. The union also got the school system to commit to spending $35 million to lower class sizes, up from $500,000 in the last contract, and to put hard limits on class sizes in the neediest schools. Still, some teachers wanted more. About 40% of delegates voted not to accept the deal. Teacher Elizabeth Ibero (ph) says she decided to vote in favor of the agreement.

ELIZABETH IBERO: It's a journey. It's hard, and you're not going to get everything you want. But you have to lay the groundwork for the future.

KARP: In the end, the mayor also sang the praises of the contract. She's a progressive who just came to office in May. But Lightfoot often argued the school system just couldn't afford to meet all the union's demands. Now she'll have to find a way to meet at least some of them.

For NPR News, I'm Sarah Karp in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah Karp is a reporter at WBEZ. A former reporter for Catalyst-Chicago, the Chicago Reporterand the Daily Southtown, Karp has covered education, and children and family issues for more than 15 years. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She has won five Education Writers Association awards, three Society of Professional Journalism awards and the 2005 Sidney Hillman Award. She is a native of Chicago.