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Chicago Teachers Union Approves One-Day Walkout on April 1

The Chicago Teachers Union has approved a one-day walkout on April 1, which the union has billed as a  "day of action" to draw attention to issues such as public school funding, racial justice, and poverty. 

The union has been beating the drums for nearly a month now for the one-day walkout, but it needed approval from its House of Delegates. The delegates voted 486 to 124 on Wednesday to approve the April 1 labor action.

CTU President Karen Lewis said at a press conference after the vote that those who voted against the April 1 action wanted what the Sun-Times called a "full-on strike."

The district has called the planned April 1 action illegal, and on Thursday Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool encouraged teachers to report to work or alternative sites on April 1. Those who did not show will not get paid, he said. 

Still, the district announced contingency plans for the day, saying that more than 250 "contingency sites" will be opened, where students will have access to food, arts, crafts, and other activities. Sites will include libraries and park facilities. 

"Ensuring the well-being of our students is our highest priority," Claypool said in a statement Thursday evening. "To help parents plan for April 1st, we want our school communities to know that we will be there for our students should they need us. While we are disappointed by the CTU leadership's course of action, we share their belief that the Governor must fix the education funding formula that discriminates against Chicago's children and poor minority children around the state. The Governor's failure to fully fund education has pushed Chicago Public Schools and too many other Illinois schools into financial crisis."

While the teachers' union has been threatening a strike for some time—88 percent of its eligible voting members cast ballots in December to authorize a strike if necessary—the union took its most definitive steps earlier this month after the school district announced that it was furloughing teachers and other district employees for three days this fiscal year in an effort to save money.

The union said that the furloughs amounted to a pay cut, along with the district's threat to stop the long-standing practice of picking up the bulk of union members' pension contributions. (The district has since temporarily backed down on the pension threat.)

The teachers' union contract expired in June last year, and in February, the union considered what it termed a "serious" offer from the district, before rejecting it. The contract dispute is in its fact-finding phase, and the district has said that the union cannot legally go on strike until mid-May.

Claypool said Wednesday that he was disappointed in the union's decision.

"We're particularly disappointed that the CTU leadership has given Governor Rauner more ammunition in his misguided attempt to bankrupt and take over Chicago Public Schools," Claypool said.

Claypool also revealed on Wednesday that the district had sued the Illinois State Charter Commission after the commission voted to overrule the district's decision to close three charter schools because of poor academic performance.

Related stories

Financial Crisis in Chicago's Schools Deepens Discord

Chicago Teachers' Union Votes to Authorize Strike

Chicago Teachers' Union Threatens to Walk Off The Job April 1

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