After 11 days, Chicago teachers strike to end as union, mayor reach deal

After 11 days, Chicago teachers strike to end as union, mayor reach deal
By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago teachers will end their 11-day strike against the third-largest U.S. school system after their union and district officials reached a tentative settlement on Thursday of a labor battle that canceled classes for 300,000 students.

The five-year contract includes funding for more than 400 additional social workers and nurses, spending that the union argued was necessary to allow teachers to focus on curriculum, according to the union.

It was the second-longest in a wave of U.S. teachers’ strikes that played out across West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and California over the past few years, topped only by a three-week June strike in Union City, California.

Like the earlier walk-outs, Chicago teachers had pushed for more money to ease overcrowded classrooms and more support staff, in addition to seeking a wage increase for the district’s 25,000 teachers.

A tentative deal reached late on Wednesday fell apart when the two sides disagreed over how many missed school days for students – and days of pay for teachers – would be tacked onto the end of the school year. The agreement reached on Thursday calls for five, less than the 11 the union had sought, the union said.

It was an early test of first-term Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned on improving the city’s schools but said the school district could not afford the sharp increases in spending on counselors and nurses that teachers sought.

“It was important to me that we got our kids back in class. Enough is enough,” Lightfoot said during a news briefing after the deal was reached. “I think it was the right thing for our city and I am glad this phase is over.”

Union members expressed frustration that Lightfoot had been unwilling to extend the school year by 11 days to make up for the lost classes. Pressure for a settlement had ramped up in recent days as teachers braced for their first paychecks reduced by the strike, as well as the prospect of health insurance expiring on Friday.

“This fight is about black children and brown children in the city of Chicago getting the resources in their school community that they have been deprived of for generations,” union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said during a news conference after the announcement.

The tentative agreement includes enforceable staffing increases of 209 social workers, amounting to one in each school, a case manager in each school and 250 additional nurses, the union said.

The district also committed to spending $35 million to reduce oversized classrooms and prioritizing schools that serve the most vulnerable students.

City officials did not immediately respond to questions about contract details. The union had sought a three-year contract.

Crowds of red T-shirted teachers took to Chicago’s streets during the strike’s two weeks, picketing some of the 500 schools across the city and holding rallies and marches in downtown Chicago.

Democratic presidential contender U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Oct. 22 joined the striking teachers on the picket line, and strikers also joined in protests against Republican President Donald Trump during his visit on Monday to Chicago.

The work stoppage forced officials to cancel classes, but school buildings stayed open for children in need of a place to go during the strike.

The strike angered parents and students, particularly the families of student athletes, as the walkout coincided with state-wide play-offs, which teams have competed for months to attend, and where college talent scouts look for candidates for athletic scholarships.

The strike came seven years after Chicago teachers walked out for seven days over teacher evaluations and hiring practices. In 2016, teachers staged a one-day walkout to protest the lack of a contract and failure to stabilize the school system’s finances.

Chicago resident Jackie Rosa thanked teachers for their “fearless fight” and courage in holding out for a deal.

“You put your bodies on the line to bring TRUE EQUITY to our children,” Rosa said on Twitter. “Chicago owes you everything.”

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Scott Malone, Chizu Nomiyama, Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler)

‘We are hopeful’: Chicago teachers picket on 10th day of strike

‘We are hopeful’: Chicago teachers picket on 10th day of strike
By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A teachers’ strike in Chicago moved into the 10th school day on Wednesday, as the teachers’ union and district worked to resolve a contract deadlock over class sizes, support staff levels and pay at the bargaining table.

The strike is the second-longest in a wave of teachers’ strikes that played out across West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and California over the past few years, topped only by a three-week strike in June in Union City, California.

Chicago Teachers Union leadership gave its 825 members of the House of Delegates an update on negotiations behind closed doors on Tuesday evening. It marked the first time since the strike began that the delegates met.

“It’s not too late,” union president Emerita Karen Lewis said in a Tuesday night statement, imploring Mayor Lori Lightfoot to make a deal.

“Our members have resolve and will not relent when it comes to the families they serve,” she warned Lightfoot, for whom the strike represents the first major political test since election in April.

The third-largest school district in the United States has canceled classes for its 300,000 students every school day since the union went on strike on Oct. 17, after contract talks failed to yield agreement.

The union represents 25,000 teachers who have been without a contract since July 1. Since the first day of the work stoppage, teachers have picketed in front of many of the district’s 500 schools and rallied several times in downtown Chicago.

“We are hopeful and we are close, really close to a deal,” said Allison Bates, 43, an elementary school science and social studies teacher who serves as a union delegate.

“We have gotten most of what we asked for but there probably needs to be some compromises from both sides,” said Bates as she huddled with a handful of other picketing teachers under a tent as it rained in front of her North Side school on Wednesday morning.

Chicago teachers had pushed for more money to ease overcrowded classrooms and add nurses, social workers and teaching aides, besides seeking a wage increase.

The union is seeking for a contract that runs three years instead of five and more paid prep-time for elementary school teachers.

Lightfoot said she and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson met with union leadership for more than three hours on Tuesday, but both sides did not come to a resolution.

“We made some movement to try to get a deal done and I was deeply disappointed that with that movement … they would not take the deal,” she said during a news conference.

District officials said on Tuesday they had proposed to spend $25 million to reduce overcrowding in the district and a further $70 million to hire support staff, such as nurses and social workers.

Lightfoot has said the district could not afford the union’s full demands, estimating they would cost an extra $2.4 billion each year for an increase of more than 30% in the current school budget of $7.7 billion.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Scott Malone)

Chicago teachers strike hits ninth day as union, district bargain

Chicago teachers strike hits ninth day as union, district bargain
By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The 300,000 students of Chicago’s public schools went a ninth day without classes on Tuesday as district officials and striking teachers returned to the bargaining table, where they are trying to hash out the union’s demands on class size, support staff and pay.

The strike, which began on Oct. 17, is the latest in a recent wave of work stoppages across the United States by educators who have called for more resources and emphasized the need to help underfunded schools, framing their demands as a call for social justice.

It is the second-longest U.S. teachers’ strike in recent memory. A teachers strike in Union City, California, in June lasted three weeks.

The Chicago Teachers Union, which represents 25,000 teachers in the third-largest U.S. school district, and Chicago Public Schools officials were unable to agree on contract terms after a marathon 16-hour negotiating session that ended early on Tuesday.

Hours later, both sides headed back to the bargaining table, the district’s chief education officer, LaTanya McDade, said during a news briefing.

“We have put forward a strong, comprehensive package of proposals that meet the demands of the key priorities that the union identified,” she said.

McDade said the city has proposed to spend $25 million to address overcrowding in the district and another $70 million to hire support staff, such as nurses and social workers.

The union, which has been without a contract since July 1, voted this month to go on strike if a deal was not reached.

“The union has laid out a path for a settlement … this is still an opportunity for the mayor to enter into an historic agreement,” Robert Bloch, an attorney for the union, said during a news conference earlier on Tuesday.

Teachers have picketed in front of many of the district’s 500 schools and have held several rallies in Chicago’s downtown area during the strike.

The strike is the first major test for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a political newcomer elected in April. She has said the district could not afford the union’s full demands, estimating they would cost an extra $2.4 billion each year for an increase of more than 30% in the current $7.7 billion school budget.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago,; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)

Chicago teachers strike enters seventh school day as talks continue

Chicago teachers strike enters seventh school day as talks continue
CHICAGO (Reuters) – About 300,000 students in Chicago missed classes for a seventh day on Friday as the city’s teachers union and school district worked to resolve their contract deadlock over class sizes, support-staff levels and pay.

Chicago Public Schools canceled classes for Friday, but the leader of the Chicago Teachers Union said good progress was made during negotiations on Thursday.

“We had conversations that hopefully will give us a path to a settlement,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said at a Friday morning news conference. “Right now I’m guardedly optimistic.”

The union, which represents the city’s 25,000 teachers, has been without a contract since July 1. The strike began on Oct. 17.

The strike is the latest in a wave of teacher work stoppages in cities and states across the United States. Some of the strikes, such as a six-day work stoppage in Los Angeles last winter, have been based on similar school resource demands.

Only a three-week teachers strike in Union City, California, in June was longer this year.

Student athletes are feeling the repercussions, as the strike has forced the cancellation of hugely popular high school football games, with college scholarships on the line, as well as other sports and after-school activities.

That prompted one parent to seek a temporary restraining order in Cook County, Illinois, to allow the child’s team to compete in state cross-country playoffs over the weekend, ABC News said.

POLITICAL TEST

Chicago teachers voted to go on strike against the third-largest U.S. school district after contract negotiations failed to yield a deal on pay, class overcrowding and a lack of support staff, such as nurses and social workers.

The strike has been the first major political test for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a political newcomer who was elected in April.

Lightfoot, a progressive Democrat whose campaign promised to reform the school system, has said the district offered teachers a raise of 16% over five years and promised to tackle class sizes and staffing levels.

But she said the district could not afford the union’s full demands, which she estimated would cost an extra $2.4 billion annually, representing more than a 30% increase to the current $7.7 billion school budget.

“While the public is very sympathetic to the issues of more nurses and so on, there’s a pretty good understanding that it just doesn’t come out of thin air and will have to take years of effort to make the schools better,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Chicago City Council member.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Paul Simao)

Striking Chicago teachers to protest during morning rush hour

Striking Chicago teachers to protest during morning rush hour
By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Striking Chicago teachers planned to march and hold a protest during the morning rush hour in the city’s downtown on Wednesday in their push for smaller class sizes and more support staff in the third-largest U.S. public schools system.

Classes were canceled for the fifth straight day on Wednesday for the Chicago Public Schools’ 300,000 students, who have been out of school and without after-hours activities since last Thursday when the system’s 25,000 teachers went on strike.

The Chicago Teachers Union called the work stoppage after contract negotiations with CPS failed to produce a deal on pay, overcrowding in schools and a lack of support staff such as nurses and social workers.

With no end to negotiations in sight, teachers were to take part in marches beginning at four locations in Chicago’s downtown and end with a “mass protest” at City Hall where Mayor Lori Lightfoot was set to give her budget address on Wednesday morning, the union said in an email.

The strike is the latest in a wave of work stoppages in U.S. school districts in which demands for school resources have superseded calls for higher salaries and benefits. In Chicago and elsewhere, teachers have emphasized the need to help underfunded schools, framing their demands as a call for social justice.

The strike in Chicago is the longest teacher work stoppage in the United States since Union City, California, teachers staged a four-day walkout over pay last spring. Los Angeles teachers held a week-long strike last winter over similar demands involving pay, class size and support staff.

Negotiators for the CTU and CPS have been trading proposals since the strike began while teachers have picketed daily in front of many of the system’s 500 schools and have held several rallies in downtown Chicago.

On Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren joined striking teachers at a rally at an elementary school on the city’s West Side.

Lightfoot, who was elected in April, said the district offered a raise for teachers of 16% over five years and has promised to address class sizes and staffing levels, but could not afford the union’s full demands, which would cost an extra $2.4 billion annually.

Although the latest work stoppage has forced officials to cancel classes and sports events, school buildings are staying open for children in need of a place to go.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney)

No school for Chicago students; teachers strike enters second week

No school for Chicago students; teachers strike enters second week
By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Classes for more than 300,000 students in Chicago were canceled for a third straight school day on Monday, although striking teachers reported progress over the weekend over issues such as class size and staffing in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the third-largest U.S. system.

Some 25,000 teachers went on strike last Thursday after their union was unable to reach an agreement with Chicago Public Schools over pay, overcrowding in schools and a lack of support staff, such as nurses and social workers.

At a news conference on Monday morning, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said that over the weekend, the board of education gave the union written proposals about reduced class sizes and increased staffing.

But he said the board still had not met certain union demands, such as improved clinical services for students and staffing a school nurse in every school every day.

“We’re optimistic that this does not have to be long, but there does need to be a commitment of new resources,” Sharkey said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wrote a column for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper on Sunday in which she noted her own background growing up in a disadvantaged school district, saying she understands how important educational equity is.

“I am disappointed that the Chicago Teachers Union has decided to strike,” she wrote. “I believe our contract offer is fair and respectful of the union’s leaders and their members. But my disappointment will absolutely not soften my resolve to reach an agreement.”

The strike is the latest in a recent wave of work stoppages in school districts across the United States in which demands for school resources have superseded calls for higher salaries and benefits.

In Chicago and elsewhere, teachers have emphasized the need to help underfunded schools, framing their demands as a call for social justice.

Although the latest work stoppage has forced officials to cancel classes, school buildings are staying open for children in need of a place to go.

The strike comes seven years after Chicago teachers walked out for seven days over teacher evaluations and hiring practices. In 2016, teachers staged a one-day walkout to protest the lack of a contract and failure to stabilize the school system’s finances.

The district has offered a raise for teachers of 16% over five years, enforceable targets for reducing class sizes and the addition of support staff across the district, according to Lightfoot, who was elected in April.

Lightfoot has previously said the union’s initial full list of demands would cost the district an additional $2.5 billion annually.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; additional reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; editing by Richard Pullin and David Gregorio)

‘More than just money’: Chicago parents warm to teachers’ contract demands

‘More than just money’: Chicago parents warm to teachers’ contract demands
By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Carmen Rodriguez, a life-long Chicagoan who lives on the city’s Southeast Side, sends her two children to a predominately Hispanic elementary school where she says teachers are struggling with class sizes of up to 40 students.

The crowded conditions at Virgil Grissom Elementary School makes Rodriguez, a 45-year-old stay-at-home mom, sympathetic to Chicago’s 25,000 teachers, who have authorized a strike against the public school system unless the two sides can reach a contract deal by Thursday.

In addition to wage increases, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is demanding more funding to ease overcrowded classrooms and hire more support staff, two perennial issues plaguing the third-largest U.S. school district.

“I don’t think the teachers are being unreasonable whatsoever, because they are fighting for more than just money,” she said.

Interviews with about two dozen parents of children in the system suggest Rodriguez’s point of view is widely shared, even though most parents are uncomfortable with the prospect of a strike. Thousands of teacher staged a one-day walkout in 2016 to protest the lack of a contract at that time and failures to stabilize the finances.

“They are fighting for the kids. Someone has to stand up for these things,” said yoga instructor Angela Steffensen, 34, after dropping her child off at school. “But a strike sucks for everybody.”

A strike would mark the latest in a recent wave of work stoppages in school districts across the United States in which demands for higher salaries and benefits have receded to the background.

Instead, in Chicago and elsewhere, teachers have emphasized the need for more resources for under-funded schools, framing their demands as a call for social justice that resonates with parents, said Jon Shelton, a justice studies professor at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“There are a lot of eyes on this strike,” he said. If Chicago teachers are successful “it shows that this model of organizing and working with the community is a significant way to build power for teachers.”

The district has said it is making progress to cut classroom size and has offered to spend $10 million to provide 200 teaching assistants for the most overcrowded schools. It also pledged to double the number of social workers and nurses over the next five years as more qualified applicants and funding become available.

“We expressed a willingness to find solutions on these two core issues that would be written directly into the contract,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Janice Jackson, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), said in a statement.

Overcrowding and a shortage of support staff are reflections of a systemic inequality throughout the system, according to many parents and educators.

CPS provides 67% of what it needs to educate its 361,000 students, according to Advance Illinois, an educational policy and advocacy organization.

To make up some of the difference, parent organizations in some schools, mostly in more affluent neighborhoods, provide additional funds.

As a consequence, the funding shortfall hits low-income and special-needs pupils the hardest, especially when it comes to class size and support staff, advocates and parents said.

“We are always getting the short end of the stick,” said Chamala Jordan, 43, who lives on the South Side. “There is always an explanation from CPS for why class sizes are astronomic and there is always an excuse to why they are under resourced.”

Nearly one in four elementary classrooms have 35 or more students. Many of those are in low income and minority schools, the union said, citing district data.

Teachers want mandatory maximums of 20 students in kindergarten classrooms, 24 children in first through third grade classes and 28 in grades fourth through eighth and 28 for core classes in high school. The current limits are higher and principals are allowed to deviate from them.

The union wants the number of social workers, counselors and other clinicians to meet the recommended ratios set by each profession’s national associations.

The district has a single guidance counselor for every 475 students, on par with the national ratio. But for nurses and social workers, it lags the recommendations badly.

Even so, not all parents are sympathetic with the teachers.

Willie Preston, a 34-year-old father of six, sees bad blood between the teachers union and the mayor behind the strike threat. Lightfoot won election last April without the union’s endorsement.

“They are using our children as leverage, bargaining chips,” he said.

Despite the political overtones, many parents said they have focused on the harm that overcrowding and the lack of support staff does to their children’s education.

“Smaller classrooms mean more attention to your child and more attention means that they learn better … and they can excel,” said Stefanie Gambrell, 48, the mother of a child in a CPS school.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Frank McGurty and Nick Zieminski)

Special prosecutor to examine Jussie Smollett case in Chicago

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – A Chicago judge on Friday ordered a special prosecutor to examine the handling of actor Jussie Smollett’s discredited claim that he was the victim of a hate crime, setting up the possibility he could be criminally charged a second time, a police spokesman said.

Smollett, who is black and gay and at the time had a role on the television show “Empire,” ignited a firestorm on social media after he told police on Jan. 29 that he was attacked on a street outside his Chicago home.

He said two apparent supporters of President Donald Trump struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs.

Police later charged Smollett with filing a false police report and accused him of paying $3,500 to two men to stage the attack to generate public sympathy. Prosecutors dropped the charges in March, saying an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

Trump, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor at the time; and the city’s police superintendent criticized the decision by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office to drop charges.

Former Illinois appellate court judge Sheila O’Brien has since submitted a petition to Cook County Judge Michael Toomin requesting a special prosecutor to examine Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case, according to local media.

Toomin issued an order on Friday appointing the special prosecutor, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed by phone.

The special prosecutor will look into the “whole investigation” and as a result “Mr. Smollett could face charges,” Guglielmi said by phone.

“We stand firmly behind the work of detectives in investigating the fabricated incident reported by Jussie Smollett #ChicagoPolice will fully cooperate with the court-appointed special prosecutor,” Guglielmi wrote on Twitter.

Mark Geragos, an attorney for Smollett, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Foxx recused herself from the case before charges were filed against Smollett because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives, according to her spokesman.

A spokeswoman for Foxx’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The initial reports of two Trump supporters attacking a gay, black celebrity drew widespread sympathy for Smollett, particularly from Democrats. That faded quickly after the actor’s arrest.

Smollett turned 37 years old on Friday.

“Empire” creator Lee Daniels confirmed earlier this month that Smollett would not be returning to the show.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Trump calls Smollett case ’embarrassment,’ announces review

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the Department of Justice will “review” the case of actor Jussie Smollett, who was charged with staging a fake hate crime in Chicago before prosecutors abruptly dropped the case this week.

In an early morning tweet announcing the review, Trump said the case had embarrassed the nation.

Smollett, who is black and gay, said two men attacked him at night in January, making homophobic and racist remarks and putting a noose around his neck while shouting support for Trump.

Investigators later charged Smollett with paying the two men to pretend to attack him in order to garner public sympathy for himself. Prosecutors dropped the charges on Tuesday, saying they stood by the accusation but that an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

The county prosecutors’ decision stunned the city’s police chief, prompted the police union to demand a federal investigation and enraged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, who called it a “whitewash” that made a fool of the city.

Trump, a Republican, echoed those remarks early on Thursday.

“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. “It is an embarrassment to our Nation!”

Smollett, 36, says he is innocent and did not stage the attack. His spokeswoman and his lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

The FBI has already had some involvement in the case, with agents investigating a threatening letter Smollett said he received prior to the attack, according to the Chicago Police Department.

The initial reports of two Trump supporters attacking a gay, black celebrity drew widespread sympathy for Smollett, particularly from Democrats. That faded quickly after the actor’s arrest, and the case was seized on by some as an example of what Trump likes to deride as “fake news.”

Smollett is best known for playing a gay musician on the Fox drama “Empire.” His lawyers said he hopes to move on with his acting career, but it remains unclear whether he will return to “Empire” after being written out of the last two episodes of the most recent season.

Chicago’s chief prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, has defended her office’s decision as proportionate to what she described as relatively minor charges, saying that even if Smollett had been convicted he would likely not have faced prison time.

Foxx recused herself from the case after acknowledging she had discussed it with a relative of Smollett.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Chicago mayor demands answers after Smollett hoax charges dropped

FILE PHOTO: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks during an interview at City Hall in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo

(Reuters) – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Wednesday he wanted to “find out what happened” to cause prosecutors to abruptly drop charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a hoax hate crime to boost his career.

The saga began in January when the actor, who is black and gay, said two men had attacked him on a Chicago street, putting a noose around his neck and shouting racist and homophobic slurs.

Prosecutors on Feb. 21 accused him of paying two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, $3,500 to carry out an attack they called a hoax to advance his career but abruptly dropped the charges on Tuesday.

“Let’s get to the bottom of this,” Emanuel said in an ABC News interview. “Let’s find out what happened.”

Emanuel said Smollett had “abused” the city of Chicago, a day after the actor walked out of court saying he had been vindicated in insisting he had not staged a racist assault against him in January.

Smollett, who plays a gay musician on Fox’s hip-hop TV drama “Empire,” had been charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct alleging he gave false accounts of an attack on him to police investigators.

On Tuesday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said it stood by its accusation against Smollett but was dropping all the charges, saying the actor’s prior community service and his agreeing to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

“The state’s attorney’s office is saying he’s not exonerated, he actually did commit this hoax,” Emanuel said in the ABC interview. “He’s saying he’s innocent and his words are true. They better get their stories straight, because this is making fools of all us.”

Chicago’s chief prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, defended her office’s decision in an interview with WBEZ on Wednesday as proportionate to the charges.

Foxx had recused herself from the case prior to Smollett’s being charged because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives, according to her spokesman.

“There’s some people who were never gonna be satisfied unless Mr. Smollett spent many nights in prison, and then there were others who believed that the charging of 16 counts of disorderly conduct was excessive,” she said in the interview. She said the charges Smollett faced were unlikely to have led to a prison sentence if he had been convicted.

“What I can tell you is that most people who come through the criminal justice system don’t give up $10,000 of their hard-earned money, or engage in volunteer services connected with an alleged offense, without viewing that as a way of being held accountable,” she said.

Smollett initially earned widespread sympathy from celebrities and some Democratic presidential candidates over his account of the alleged assault.

The Chicago Police Department released what it said were all its records from the case on Wednesday, totaling 61 pages, with some names and other personal details redacted.

The records conformed with the information included in court filings, including summaries of interviews with the Osundairo brothers who said Smollett gave them a $3,500 check and $100 in cash to buy the rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps used in the attack.

On Tuesday, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also criticized the prosecutor’s decision, saying it did not serve justice.

Smollett had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and told reporters on Tuesday he had been “truthful and consistent” in maintaining his innocence.

His lawyers said he hopes to move on with his acting career, but it remains unclear whether he will return to “Empire” after being written out of the last two episodes of the most recent season.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Richard Chang)