400,000 students in Chicago are taking an unexpected vacation after teachers in the nation’s third-largest public school system went on strike Monday morning. The strike marks the first time in 25 years that Chicago teachers have abandoned their posts.
Teachers and state workers were engaged in 11th hour contract negotiations that eventually failed, leaving 675 schools without teaching staff.
Teachers over the last year had fought for salary increases, better health benefits, and job security. Talks erupted into anger after the school board last year unanimously voted to end a four percent pay hike in the final year of the teachers four-year contract.
According to Chicago School Board President David Vitale, “more than 20 offers had been made to teachers throughout the talks in hopes of preventing a strike.”
Vitale told NBC News:
“There’s only so much money in the system. There’s only so many things we can do that are available to us that we actually believe will not hurt the educational agenda that we think is best for our children.”
The final deal made to teachers would have spanned four years at a cost of $400 million.
The strike is being observed by more than 26,000 teachers and their support staff.
In an attempt to keep children safe and off the streets, approximately 150 schools will be open for a half day of supervision as will 60 churches. Already jumping in to help are the Chicago Park District and the YMCA, which will both offer day-camps.
While talks are expected to continue throughout the strike, none had been setup as of Sunday night.