Chicago Teachers Strike: CTU preps for one-day strike Friday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are preparing for a one-day strike on FridaY as some question the effectiveness of a strike.

CTU handed out signs Wednesday for the union's walkout.

The union called for the action as they negotiate a new contract with Chicago Public Schools. Among the issues - funding for education - it's a concern that seems to be shared by everyone.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday suggests the teachers target their energy into getting more money from the state and was critical of the Friday strike.

Two teachers shared concerns about the strike publicly in a Chicago Tribune editorial, summarizing to say, "There are better ways to move forward for our colleagues and kids."

For some parents the strike may be an inconvenience. Wendy Katten, the executive director of Raise Your Hand, a parent advocacy organization, said while parents may be conflicted on whether the strike is appropriate or effective, she says parents are looking at the big picture and want to have their children supported in the classroom.

CPS has opened 250 contingency sites for students during the one-day teachers strike on April 1st. The sites will keep students "safe, fed and engaged" during the strike, a CPS release stated.

The sites are located throughout the city so families have a place to go if they cannot keep their children at home or find childcare. Still, the district urges families that can make alternate arrangements to take advantage of other options, as April 1st will not count towards student attendance.

Students at contingency sites will be provided with online learning opportunities, physical education and arts and crafts. All students will be provided with free breakfast and lunch. The Chicago Transit Authority will provide students with free transportation to and from contingency sites Friday.

The sites comprise of 107 CPS schools, 80 Chicago Park District facilities, all 80 Chicago Public Library locations and numerous Safe Haven locations.

"Whenever school's out, libraries are in action. We really believe that all out of school times are important learning opportunities for kids," said Liz McChesney, director of children's services for Chicago Public Library.

All 80 Chicago public libraries are official alternative sites for CPS students. Library staff was already ready with extra activities for spring break, and now plan to add even more on Friday.

"We will have computer time, new media will be open for teens. School-age kids have opportunities for drop-in activities around STEM, with activities like making circuit kits," McChesney said.

"We saw it just like everyone else in Chicagoan saw it, and we just came up with our plan," said Alonzo Williams, chief program officer, Chicago Park District.

The Chicago Park District will have about a third of park district sites available to extra activities the Friday.

"Very similar to our after-school program and our daycare program, we just do a mini version of that. But it's arts, it's crafts, it obviously is sports and other fun-based activities," Williams said.

A complete list of sites can be found here: Parents may also call 311 for information on sites.

CPS says that teachers are welcome in their classrooms or can report to a CPS contingency site. CPS Central Office staff also will be deployed to schools to assist at contingency sites, according to the release.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union says members who cross picket lines Friday when teachers plan to shut public schools could owe the union a day's pay.

The CTU planned to walkout to bring attention to education funding and contract issues. CPS officials say a walkout would be illegal because it isn't in line with the state-mandated process for a teachers strike. CPS faces a $1.1-billion budget deficit and has no contract with the union.
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