At a news conference on Wednesday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced that the union had filed a 10 day strike action notice because of a smear campaign by Chicago Public Schools and the mayor against teachers.
“It has been insult after insult after insult. Enough is enough,” Lewis said.
By filing the required 10-day notice Wednesday with the CPS school board and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, teachers are eligible to strike beginning on Sept. 10, the start of the second week of school for the majority of CPS students.
The strike notice has been widely anticipated for some time, with many expecting it to have occurred a little earlier than it actually did. Having the city’s children go back to school for a week and then be out of school will likely cause considerable disruption to both their education and many of the city’s parents, but the union proceeded.
Whether the CTU will actually go on strike remains to be seen as the strike notice is primarily a negotiating tool. However, there is still such a wide gulf between the 22% two year pay increase demanded by the CTU and the 2% per year for 4 years that CPS says is the maximum they can afford that it remains difficult to foresee a compromise that both sides will agree to. Although some minor contractual points have been resolved, the major sticking points of teacher raises and a permanent system of rehiring laid off teachers remain seemingly irresolvable.
“I want to make clear that we will remain at the (negotiating) table until a deal gets done,” Lewis said. “We will have a contract and it will come the easy way or the hard way.”
Responding to the union’s announcement, CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard issued a statement Wednesday evening, saying “everyone knows that a strike would only hurt our kids.”
Brizard went on to say that they will continue to meet with the CTU every day, striving to reach a fair resolution for the teachers and to avoid disruption to the kids’ school year.
If the strike does happen, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll says that they have $25m budgeted for a contingency plan that will provide a ‘safe and engaging’ environment for as many children in the district as possible. This plan seems to involve opening some city buildings, including schools, to provide breakfast, lunch and play areas. Unfortunately state law prohibits students from engaging in classroom instruction in the absence of certified teachers, so even if the daycare side of the school experience is still provided to minimize disruption for working parents, the children will still suffer educationally.
“If the Chicago Teachers Union chooses to strike, we’ll be prepared to serve our kids,” Carroll said.
Prominent CTU members were seeking the hearts and minds of local residents by campaigning at 95th Street last Friday, but it remains to be seen which side the Chicago public will blame for the strike if it occurs.