Monday, September 10 has been set as the long-anticipated strike date for the Chicago Teachers Union. In a press conference statement, President of the Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis said:
"We have said from the very beginning that we are tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed. We have done everything asked of us and we continue to be vilified and treated with disrespect. This contract fight is about three things: A better day for our students, job security and wages and benefits for our members
You all know that we've been in negotiations since September of 2011. We've had over 45 negotiating sessions and we still have no agreement. Today our house of delegates have set a strike date for September 10th. We intend to walk out, and all of our members and our house of delegates unanimously approved this.
We've been telling our parents and the city to prepare for this. We do not want to strike but apparently the board does. Because if they didn't we wouldn't be in this situation we are today. So we intend to fight for better contracts. We intend to fight for better schooling. We intend to fight for the schools that our children deserve."
In post statement questions, Lewis confirmed that the strike would start at midnight on September 9, meaning that no CTU teachers would be in classrooms on September 10 — the first day of the second week of school for most students in Chicago Public Schools.
Lewis also confirmed that contract negotiations would continue through the week and weekend, which, if successful, could avert the strike. While both sides would probably prefer the strike not to take place — as they both risk endangering public goodwill — there is still a substantial gulf between the pay raise that the CTU is demanding and what CPS says is the most it can possibly afford.
If the strike does go ahead it would be the first teacher walkout in Chicago in 25 years and would adversely affect more than 400,000 students and their families.
CPS has budgeted $25 million for its contingency plan. The Chicago Tribune reports that CPS plans to open 145 schools for the morning session 8:30am to 12:30am Monday through Friday to provide non-teaching student activities. In addition, the district will partner with other city agencies to provide a safe space for as many of Chicago's students as possible.
Schools opened during a strike will be selected based on location, with preference given to schools with "strong leadership," air conditioning, gymnasiums, cafeterias, computer labs and easy access to public transportation. Children will be invited to participate in activities such as independent reading, writing, the arts, athletics and computer work.
There will be separate facilities provided for high school students, special education students and elementary school children. All facilities will provide breakfast and lunch. However, all varsity sports and practices will be cancelled for the duration of the strike.