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When Enough is Enough: CTU Teachers Are about to Go out on Strike

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Last Wednesday Chicago Teachers Union gave its 10-day notice about the strike which is to start on September 10th as the result of the mud-slinging that has been taking place recently.  This is going to be another attempt to press the case with Chicago Public Schools assignees in ongoing contract negotiations.

The central issue of the drama, which has been unfolding in Chicago for some time now, is the mayor’s decision to prolong school time by 20% while increasing teachers’ salaries by only 2%. During the 2011-12 academic years teachers in Chicago public schools worked the average of 58 hours per week. Adding a few more hours per week has to be adequately compensated, the teacher’s union president, Karen Lewis, said.

Both sides have been trying to work it out for a while but the agreement still has a long way to go. So far they have been able to agree on “small issues” such as providing teachers with working computers, making textbooks available for students in schools with limited resources, getting some privileges for teachers who are nursing mothers etc. However, the main questions at hand which are job security, compensation package and teachers’ evaluation, have not yet been comprehensively discussed.

At the moment the money issue remains one of the most disputable. The city can only offer a 2% increase per year for 4 years it has been missing, which is unlikely to resonate with the teachers who are expecting as much as 22% two year increase.

Letting the CPS students go back to school for one week and then keeping them out is much likely to cause major disruption to school children’s education process quality as well as their working parents. The CPS spokeswoman, Becky Carroll, says the city has $25 million to support the emergency plan which will be brought into effect, should the strike really take place on September 10th. This plan will provide “a safe environment with positive activities” which could keep kids engaged. Besides, some city buildings including school lunchrooms will be opened to feed those children who are eligible for free meals.

However, keeping children busy and entertained a few hours a day is probably the only thing city authorities can do in this situation, for district public schools are prohibited to provide any form of classroom instruction unless there is a certified teacher to deliver it. Thus, the day care part will only resolve the problem of working parents’ having to look after their out-of school kids while the children will still suffer significant educational harm.

Both disputing sides intend to continue negotiating and want to do their best to minimize the damage inflicted on students. CPS and CTU’s negotiators will continue to meet daily until a fair resolution is reached.


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