Chicago will experience its first teachers’ strike in a generation from Monday morning, unless a last-minute settlement can be reached in the dispute between unionized public school teachers and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
As time runs down to the start of the strike, it’s looking increasingly likely that the third-largest city in the U.S. will see almost 30,000 public school teachers and support staff walk out from the job at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, September 10.
The strikers, who are represented by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), are opposed to a number of reforms proposed by Rahm Emanuel, including stricter teacher evaluations tied to student test scores, and principals being given wider latitude in hiring. Emanuel’s recommendations come after he pushed through a longer school day earlier this year.
CTU President Karen Lewis revealed to reporters on Friday evening that negotiators had made precious little progress, and confirmed that talks would continue on Saturday:
“We were told that we were going to get a proposal that would answer some of our biggest issues, and it did not.”
From the other side of the negotiating table, Chicago School Board President David Vitale described how the two sides had a “good meeting” on Friday. While the remaining differences are still unclear, it’s known that the union has asked for an increase on the 8 per cent pay raise over four years offered by Chicago. The school district argues that a large budget deficit means it cannot afford such concessions, and points out that major credit rating agencies have downgraded its debt rating.
If it goes ahead, the walkout would easily qualify as one of the largest labor actions nationwide in the past decade. Ripples from the proposed strike action could also be felt nationwide; the Democrats are counting on unions such as teachers to push for votes in their favor, in what increasingly looks like being a knife-edge election.
Chicago’s public school system, the third largest in the country behind those of New York and Los Angeles, has more than 400,000 students enrolled.
The city is preparing for strikes with a $25 million ‘strike contingency fund.’ The money would be used to provide breakfast and lunch to students in the district, 84 per cent of whom qualify for free and reduced-price meals at school. The fund will also go towards paying for four hours of supervision at some schools, churches and other public venues.
Do you have children who attend school in Chicago? Let us know in the comments what you make of the proposed strike action.