CHICAGO (WLS) --It's back to the bargaining table Thursday for Chicago teachers and Chicago Public Schools to try to prevent a strike.
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted last week in favor of a walkout. The union announced Wednesday that a strike date was set for Oct. 11. Teachers are unified and ready to walk out on that day.
Negotiators are still at odds over health insurance benefits, pay raises and pensions.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said a teacher strike is not necessary
The mayor and top CPS officials visited Skinner North Elementary School to help celebrate Skinner being named one of the nation's 329 Blue Ribbon Schools or one of the nation's best as judged by the U.S. Department of Education.
At the post-event news conference, they insisted the teacher strike threatened for next month is unnecessary.
"We think a strike can be averted. I think that's what educators want to hear. I know that's what parents want to hear," Janice Jackson, CPS Chief Education Officer, said.
"You don't want to see a disruption. You don't want to see kids miss out on school. They got test preparation. They got graduation preparation," Emanuel said.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Teachers Union announced that without a contract agreement by October 11, its members' job action would include not reporting to work at over 500 Chicago Public Schools.
"It's one of choice, not of necessity. Because you have a 13 percent pay raise on the table," Emanuel said.
But the union said the pay raise is not so generous because CPS continues to demand that teachers begin paying seven percent of their take home pay into their pension fund.
The union also demands that the city dismantle TIF districts to provide additional money for teacher salaries and benefits.
The mayor sounded reluctant to support such a move adding that CPS has been the principal beneficiary of TIFs.
"They've been helping modernize our schools, helping invest in our schools. That is the primary place we spend our TIF resources," Emanuel said.
There are ten days of bargaining left.
CPS released a statement, saying, "CPS will work tirelessly at the bargaining table. We hope the CTU's leadership works in good faith at the bargaining table to reach a fair deal for teachers and students."
The district said it has an emergency plan in place if there is a strike. They have authorized a $15 million plan to shelter and feed students if teachers walk out.
Skinner was the only CPS school awarded a National Blue Ribbon award. But there were 17 schools in the Chicago suburbs and collar counties also designated as among the best in the country.