Day 2 expected in Chicago teachers' strike

Sept. 10, 2012 at 9:18 PM
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CHICAGO, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Contract talks went on into the night Monday, but Chicago's school board president said the teachers' strike would likely to go into a second day.

"We started out this morning by emphasizing that we are close to getting this situation resolved, the Chicago Tribune quoted school board President David Vitale as saying. "That was our starting point. We spent the day exchanging proposals. Some of them are somewhat complex.

"There are other issues that are being discussed upstairs that don't require my presence. So they will continue to work on those other issues."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday the first strike in a quarter century by teachers in the nation's third-largest school district could have been avoided.

Emanuel, speaking at one of 59 faith-based "safe havens" for children displaced by the strike, said the remaining issues are a new teacher evaluation system and principals' ability to fire teachers, the Tribune reported. The mayor called the walkout that affects more than 21,000 teachers and more than 400,000 students "the wrong choice for our children," a position that earned him the teachers' wrath.

Picketers chanted outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

"Rahm says cut back. We say fight back," they said.

"We're in the wrong spot. We shouldn't be outside walking back and forth. We should be inside with the children," eighth-grade teacher George Drase told the Tribune.

WLS-TV reported police estimated the afternoon crowd at 5,000 and WGN-TV said the red-shirted teachers in Chicago's Loop district wound up spilling into the streets.

"Hey Rahm, how many kids in your child's classroom?" one sign read. Another said, "Use your outdoor voice."

"Hey, hey, ho, ho. Rahm Emanuel has got to go," they chanted.

"This is an amazing display of democracy," seventh-grade teacher Rick Sawicki told WGN. "It is a wonderful lesson for children and adults alike. I'm honored that we are all sticking together. We all want what is fair. We want to make sure everyone is treated fairly, just like I teach my children."

WLS-TV said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney weighed in on the strike, saying in a statement the teachers union's "interests conflict with those of our children."

"I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city's public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education," Romney said.

After a daylong negotiating session Sunday, Vitale had said the district changed its proposal multiple times during talks. The district said it offered teachers a 16 percent pay raise over four years and other benefit proposals.

"This is about as much as we can do. There is only so much money in the system," Vitale said. "This is not a small commitment we're handing out at a time when our fiscal situation is really challenged."

Union President Karen Lewis said the two sides were close on teacher compensation but the union had deep concerns about health-benefit costs, a new teacher evaluation system and job security.

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