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In what seemed like a step backward during a week-long standoff with the Chicago Public Schools after positive signs from both sides late last week, the Chicago Teachers Union on Sunday suspended a vote on whether or not to end its strike. Monday morning, more than 26,000 teachers and paraprofessionals will return to the picket lines while 350,000 children remain out of school.
Following a special meeting that included more than 800 CTU delegates, in which union president Karen Lewis shared the latest contract details, the group was supposed to commence the vote. “They’re not happy with the agreement,” Lewis said of the delegates. “They still want to know is there anything more than they can get.”
According to Lewis, the contract being offered by the city is “still not quite finished in terms of language. We would like to go back to their members, have discussions with them. We will reconvene here on Tuesday.”
In observance of Rosh Hashanah, the CTU will not meet Monday.
“We still want to have the opportunity to discuss it,” Lewis said. “When you have expectations of democracy, then that’s what happens.”
Board of education president David Vitale expressed his discontent at the decision in a statement issued Sunday.
“We are extremely disappointed that after ten months of discussion, and reaching an honest and fair compromise, that the CTU has decided to continue their strike of choice and keep children out of the classroom,” Vitale said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement Sunday saying, “I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union. This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children.” Emanuel continued, saying, “Every day our kids are kept out of school is one more day we fail in our mission: to ensure that every child in every community has an education that matches their potential.”
Emanuel took immediate action and instructed the city’s Corporation Counsel and the General Counsel of Chicago Public Schools to file an injunction in circuit court to end the strike. “This continued action by union leadership is illegal on two grounds,” Emanuel said. “It is over issues that are deemed by state law to be non-strikable, and it endangers the health and safety of our children.”
From Monday through the end of the strike, CPS’s 147 “Children First” sites, as well as the city’s parks and neighborhood organizations, will provide full-day services for children in need. “While the CTU continues to delay ending their strike, we will do whatever is needed to support parents and children…We all need to put our children first,” Vitale said.