CTU rallies for 'fair' contract in Grant Park

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Teachers Union is holding a rally at Butler Field in Grant Park as the fight continues for a new contract.

Hundreds of teachers, parents and students have alreado y arrived at the rally, scheduled to run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday. The featured speaker is CTU President Karen Lewis, who says the rally is about securing a fair contract.

No one wants a repeat of the 2012 teachers' strike, but the Chicago Teachers Union says they are prepared for another one if need be. Currently, contract negotiations that have been going for months are stalled - even with the help of a mediator.

The CTU says its next step is asking for a fact-finding panel.

"It's time to bring in a third party, which is what the law contemplates, to have them start reviewing facts that are on table and issue a report," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said.

But CPS wants to give negotiations more time, possibly holding out for any action in Springfield. CTU cannot legally strike until the fact-finding process is over and a report is made public.

If fact finding were to begin soon, the earliest strike date would be in the spring. Despite that, teachers are trying to rally support now in hopes of putting more pressure on the school board.

"The rally is about us making a public show of force to say fund public education, support public schools, respect the people who work in the schools," Sharkey said.

In response to the rally, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement: "At CPS, we are looking for a solution, not a strike. It's a sad day when the CTU won't join us in Springfield to fight for equal funding for Chicago's schoolchildren."

Claypool is also proposing for the fact-finding process to begin in February. If that is the case, the possible strike could be pushed into next school year.
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