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An unexpected win in 11-day teachers’ strike? Help for homeless students

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More resources and early intervention for vulnerable students

Chicago teachers march through a downtown street blocking car traffic.
Thousands of Chicago teachers take to the streets, stopping traffic downtown.
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After an 11-day strike, Chicago Public School teachers will return the the classroom with a contract that includes resources for thousands of homeless students in Chicago.

In the last school year, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates there were about 16,000 homeless students at Chicago Public Schools. Chicago teachers and city officials reached an agreement on Thursday that will bring more resources to some of the city’s most vulnerable kids.

The new contract designates funds to hire “community representatives” at schools with large numbers of students experiencing homelessness or transitional living situations. Depending on the number of vulnerable students, the school will be able to hire one or two full-time representatives. They will be responsible for providing families in need with access to housing resources, establishing early intervention to prevent homelessness, and helping students succeed in class.

A stipend will also be available for some schools to hire a Students in Temporary Living Situation (STLS) Liaison. Together, the representative and liaison will ensure homeless students are attending class, have transit passes, and are aware of neighborhood resources.

“This deal will move us closer to ensuring that our most vulnerable students receive the instruction, resources and wraparound services they need to thrive,” said Jesse Sharkey, CTU’s president, in a statement. “This contract will put a nurse in every school, a social worker in every school and provide a real solution for thousands of homeless students in Chicago.”

In labor negotiations, housing has become an issue that is appearing at the bargaining table more frequently. A wave of teachers’ strikes has brought the issue of affordability, cost of living, and skyrocketing rents to the forefront of a few union contract negotiations.

Ahead of the Chicago strike, union leaders were asking for housing assistance for teachers, which are required to live in the city, and better resources for thousands of homeless public school students. The mayor wasn’t willing to discuss housing assistance for teachers—although the union argued that other city employees like police and firefighters get housing assistance.

For the full rundown on what else Chicago teachers won in the contract, Chalkbeat has posted the tentative contract and breaks down what comes next.