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Chicago Strike Still On as CTU Delegates Mull Deal

TeachersStrike_Sun400.jpg

Delegates to the Chicago Teachers Union deferred a vote Sunday on whether to end a strike that began Sept. 10. They indicated they needed more time to digest the details of a proposed deal with the school district.

The next delegate meeting is scheduled for Tuesday. Classes for some 350,000 Chicago students aren't likely to resume before Wednesday.

"Our members are not happy," CTU President Karen Lewis said, according to the Associated Press. "They want to know if there is anything more they can get. They feel rushed."

The setback came unexpectedly, with officials having signaled late last week that classes could probably resume on Monday.

Details of the proposed agreement are still unclear, with the district and the union each putting out releases that framed the results in terms of its own priorities.

The union, for example, noted the hiring of new teachers and some limited "recall rights" for teachers (see this update). But Sunday afternoon, the Chicago district presented the provisions in a different light. In a summary sent to journalists, it noted that principals would still have full say over which teachers to hire in their buildings. That's technically correct, but they'd be selecting from a pool that has half new and half previously laid-off teachers.

And while the union said that the proportion of a teacher's evaluation based on measures of student academic growth would be limited to the state-mandated level of 30 percent, the district noted that a joint union and district committee could potentially approve raising that proportion to 35 percent in the contract's fourth year and more beyond that.

The contract would last for three years, unless the district and the union together approved a fourth.

Local polls showed last week that a plurality of the public and a slight majority of parents approved of the union's strike. But with at least two more days of no school, it's an open question at what point public patience will wear thin.

Chicago school board President David Vitale said in a statement, "There is no reason why our kids can't be in school while the union reviews the agreement. Just as we have said this is a strike of choice, this has become a delay of choice. Our kids cannot be used as pawns in internal union disagreements."

UPDATED, 9:15 p.m.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to seek a court injunction to end the strike; he'll argue that many of the issues contested, such as teacher evaluation, weren't mandatory areas of bargaining to begin with. See this previous item for more information.

Photo: Chicago Teachers Union delegates arrive for a meeting on Sept. 16 to review a proposed contract and vote on whether to suspend the teachers' strike, which has kept more than 350,000 students out of school. (Sitthixay Ditthavong)

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