CTU strike ends; CPS back in session Wednesday

September 18, 2012 8:18:28 PM PDT
Chicago Public Schools students will return to class Wednesday morning. Their teachers voted Tuesday to suspend a strike that kept 350,000 students out of the classroom for seven days.

"An overwhelming majority" voted to suspend the strike, according to Susan Hickey, an 18-year veteran social worker at CPS, and one of the 800 Chicago Teachers Unions delegates who participated in the vote.

CPS students should report to class Wednesday morning.

"It was an overwhelming vote today in there. It was not that many people that said, 'no,'" Hickey said. "I'm happy we're going back. I really am happy for the kids and I think that the contract is looking good. I think if we had a chance to look at it more today, more of the pieces were put together, and I think that, again, you know, I'm glad we're going back on our own terms."

CPS parents who have been scrambling to keep their kids busy during the last seven days are glad, too.

"I'm elated. I'm ecstatic. I'm so glad that the teachers got what they rightfully deserved. They fought a good fight. And they won. And I'm happy for them. I'm happy for the students," Marsha Godard, CPS parent, said.

The CTU delegates went line-by-line through the tentative contract before voting to suspend the strike.

"We went through the terms, article by article so people had an understanding of what was changed, what was new. People got to read it. They have to read the fine print. So that is extraordinarily important to us," CTU President Karen Lewis said.

Lewis said about 98-percent of the delegates were in favor of suspending the strike.

"The issue is we cannot get a perfect contract. There's no such thing as a contract that would make all of us happy. And we're realistic about that. But the other issue is do we stay on strike forever until every little thing that we want is capable of being gotten?" Lewis said. "It's a hard decision to go out. And for some people it's a hard decision to go back in. But everybody is looking forward to seeing their kids tomorrow."

"This settlement is an honest compromise," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "With this agreement, our teachers will receive higher pay, and our students will have a higher standard of education."

"It's been a long road to get here," David Vitale, Chicago Board of Education president, said. "This is a fair contract for our teachers."

"If you don't go prepared to give and take, then it's not a negotiation. And we knew that we were going to have to give up some stuff in order to get some stuff," Audrey Olson, CTU delegate, said.

"I really don't feel like I should speak to specifics right now. But what we lost is what we can't strike over anyway-- the small class sizes and more resources. Those are the really important things. That's what we really lost," Irene Jackson, librarian, said.

"We gave the entire membership the opportunity to at least review the agreement. And we reviewed it. We had the opportunity to vote on it. But right now, in the best interests of everyone to return to work," Terrell Burgess said.

Teachers will vote on whether to ratify the actual contract -- within the next 10 days.

CTU and CPS negotiators hammered out a tentative contract at the end of last week after months of meetings. Saying they needed more time to review the 260-page agreement, CTU delegates voted to continue the strike on Sunday. Tuesday was the delegate's second meeting -- and a second chance to end the teachers' strike.

"I said many, many times to the press, 'I hope our kids will be back in school tomorrow morning.' Tonight I get the chance to say, they will be back in school tomorrow morning," Vitale said.


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