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Chicago Teachers Are Now On Strike

After months of negotiations and threats, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced that teachers will be striking on Monday.

Lewis stated at a 10 p.m. press conference tonight that numerous unresolved issues led to the union's decision to walk out of contract negotiations. Among them, Lewis stated, were the need for "wrap-around services" that include more social workers in schools, a distrust of the new teacher evaluation system that uses student standardized test results, and the demand that laid- off teachers get priority placement into open positions within the school district. She said all of the union demands would need to be addressed.

In a press conference tonight, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated that the district's offered an "honorable deal, an honest compromise." He said there were only two outstanding issues, teacher evaluations and the role of principals in hiring. Emanuel said these two issues are not legally strikeable because they don't involve salaries. He said the district offered teachers a 16 percent raise over four years.

"I believe this is avoidable; it's a strike of choice," Emanuel said.

For the first time in 25 years, district teachers will be on strike. More than 400,000 students will be affected; some 26,000 teachers and school staff will be striking.

Parents who had held out hope that district officials and union leaders would work out their differences are now scrambling to figure out what they will do with their children during school hours.

Tomorrow, the district will implement it's "Children First" contingency plan, which includes 144 sites that will serve the children breakfast and lunch—but no academic instruction.

A just-released press release by the district reads: "Parents who do not have access to alternative options can sign up their children for a Children First site, and are encouraged to do so ahead of time to ensure staff at the site are prepared to meet the students' needs. All CPS students have been assigned a designated site in their community that is not necessarily their regular school."

Transportation will not be provided by the district.

"The choice by the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union to strike is an incredible burden on our families and children ... " said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. "While we can provide a safe and engaging environment for students most in need, it is not a substitute for being in class with their teachers, where our students really belong. We are committed to working with the CTU, as we have for the past few months, to find a solution that is fair for our teachers and keeps our kids in class."

Parents can sign-up online using their student's ID number by visiting www.cps.edu/childrenfirst. Parents without access to the Internet can call 311 or visit their local library to sign-up their child.

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