CPS prepares for possible teacher strike Tuesday

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Friday could be the final day of class for Chicago Public School students, if teachers hold up their threat and hit the picket lines on Tuesday. (WLS)

Friday could be the final day of class for Chicago Public School students, if teachers hold up their threat and hit the picket lines on Tuesday.

The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Board of Education are expected to stay at the bargaining table all weekend and Monday to avoid a strike. The CTU said parents should know by Monday evening on whether or not there will be strike.

If there is no deal by Monday night, the pickets will begin at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

Parents dropped off their kids on Friday not knowing if they will return Tuesday. Teachers have been without a contract since June 2015. CPS said it will continue to negotiate using the framework of a deal that CTU president Karen Lewis called "a serious offer" until her 40-member bargaining team rejected it last January.

The four-year deal was also given a thumbs up from an independent fact finder. It gives the teachers a raise but phases out the districts longtime practice of picking up seven percent contributions toward teacher pensions. The union calls the deal a pay cut, but Lewis points out the contract is not just about pensions but an entire package.

"A fair contract to us means, that if we strike it will not be over any 4.5 issues. But that means to us that we want no cuts to our pay and benefits. We want adequate staffing and revenues so we can have at least $500 more per student in order to accommodate the needs of our children. And we think it's okay to ask for some job security along with that," Lewis said.

Lewis was somewhat optimistic about negotiations on Friday.

"There is movement, I think people are listening we've thrown out ideas about how to land this," she said.

CPS did not have any comment on Friday.

As Agassiz Elementary School in the city's Lakeview neighborhood put on their annual walk-a-thon fundraiser Friday, the possible Oct. 11 walkout loomed overhead for CPS parents.

Katrina Manuel's daughter attends Agassiz Elementary. Her son is a high school senior.

"I have a son that's going to graduate this year. If they strike, it pushes kids back who are supposed to graduate," Manuel said.

The bargaining unit for the CTU is still negotiating a contact with CPS officials. Union members are upset over the request to pay more into their pension plans. The union authorized a walkout last week. They said a strike would be their last resort.

Some frustrated parents were left trying to figure out what to do with their children Tuesday, when they would be returning from the Columbus Day holiday.
"It's going to be a strain. I work full-time. My wife works full-time. We're just going to have to rely on a network of friends and parents and whatever we can cobble together. I think a lot of people are going to be cobbling it together," said Warren Winter, a CPS parent.

Other CPS families said they support the teachers and the possible strike. They said they know sometimes a walkout comes with the territory.

"In Chicago, a strike is a well-known thing. You have to expect that when it comes here in this city. Strikes have become a part of this society," said Kenneth Williams, a CPS grandparent.

CPS does have a plan in place. Officials said all schools will remain open during the walkout.

It's not just CPS. Unionized teachers with UNO Charter Schools announced Thursday they may strike on Oct. 19. If that happens, the union said it would be the very first charter school teachers strike in the country.
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