CDC confirms second U.S. case of Wuhan coronavirus

(Reuters) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday confirmed that a second case of Wuhan coronavirus in the United States had been detected in Chicago, and said as many as 63 people were being monitored as the virus spreads around the globe.

The infected person had traveled to Wuhan, China recently. The woman, 60, had not taken public transportation and was not ill when she traveled, Chicago health authorities said on a conference call.

Of the 63 people under investigation from 22 states, 11 tested negative, CDC said in a conference call with reporters.

The newly discovered virus has killed 26 people and infected more than 800, but most of the cases and all of the deaths so far have been in China, where officials have imposed restrictions on travel and public gatherings.

The CDC said it believes the immediate threat to U.S. residents remains low.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the virus an “emergency in China”, but stopped short of declaring it a global health emergency.

(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Jussie Smollett sues Chicago for malicious prosecution

(Reuters) – The actor Jussie Smollett has sued the city of Chicago and multiple police officers for malicious prosecution, claiming they caused him economic harm, mental anguish and distress.

Smollett made his accusation in a counterclaim made public on Wednesday, in a lawsuit where the city sought to recoup costs for investigating his alleged false claim that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic beating on a Chicago street.

Chicago had sued Smollett in April, and the lawsuit is pending in Chicago federal court.

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

Chicago’s cold blast spells concern for the city’s homeless

Chicago’s cold blast spells concern for the city’s homeless
By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Homeless advocates in Chicago were closely monitoring wind chill temperatures on Tuesday as an early season blast of arctic air swept across the eastern two-thirds of the United States.

The city of Chicago, where 86,000 homeless people live, opened its six warming shelters over the last few days as unseasonably cold temperatures dipped into the teens with wind chills into the single digits during the morning, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

“It’s incredibly concerning that we are experiencing this level of cold this early in the season,” said Doug Schenkelberg, director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

The NWS said the Chicago metro area along with many major cities in the Midwest and East Coast and across the South would experience numerous record lows for a Nov. 12 or 13, with temperatures averaging 20 to 30 degrees below normal.

“It’s significantly earlier than we normally would see a change in the jet stream,” said Ed Shimon, a NWS meteorologist. “We actually have a cold front already blasting down to Florida and off the Gulf Coast … so records are being broken all over the place.”

The bitter cold prompted Cornerstone Community Outreach, on Chicago’s North Side, to place cots in its dining room to accommodate the influx of homeless people a month earlier than it usually does each winter.

“We have seen an uptick of people coming,” said Sandra Ramsey, executive director of Cornerstone Community Outreach. “From the looks of it, it spells out that we will have a long winter.”

Ramsey said she was worried about the homeless people who suffer from mental illness and refuse to go inside, opting to live under viaducts and in alleyways even amid deadly cold.

“It takes time and relationships to get these people … to come in on terribly cold nights,” Ramsey said. “But then they go back out.”

About 16,000 people sleep each night on the Chicago streets and shelters, Schenkelberg said. He added that the key to dealing with homelessness in extreme weather conditions ultimately is finding permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

“It’s never an easy time to be homeless regardless of the weather and when you add extreme weather like this into the mix, it makes life that much more difficult for people experiencing it,” he said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown)

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)