Thousands of public school teachers march on streets surrounding the Chicago Public Schools district headquarters on the first day of strike action over teachers’ contracts on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 in Chicago. For the first time in a quarter century, Chicago teachers walked out of the classroom Monday, taking a bitter contract dispute over evaluations and job security to the streets of the nation’s third-largest city and to a national audience less than a week after most schools opened for fall. (Sitthixay Ditthavong/Associated Press)
CHICAGO — Contract talks between Chicago’s school board and its teachers union were locked in negotiations Monday evening, making it increasingly likely that the city’s first teachers strike in a quarter century would go into a second day.
While thousands of teachers marched and picketed in front of schools across the city, negotiators from both sides met to discuss issues that have bogged down contract talks for months — teacher compensation, a re-hire pool for laid-off teachers and job evaluations.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday met with displaced students from Chicago Public Schools at Maranatha Church on the South Side, one of 59 faith-based organizations serving as “safe havens” for students during the strike.
Emanuel sought to reassure parents that CPS was working quickly to resolve the situation and return kids to the classroom. He again characterized the strike as “one of choice” by teachers.
“It’s the wrong choice for our children,” Emanuel said.
The Chicago teachers strike has national implications for Emanuel, whose education reform agenda is being closely watched by national reformers and labor leaders. A prolonged work stoppage may even have ramifications in the hotly contested presidential election, as both the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney camps said Monday they were aware of the escalating conflict and sought to assign blame.
Parents didn’t know what to expect when they dropped off their children Monday at one of the city’s 144 schools that remained open as part of the district’s strike-contingency plan. Some had to cross raucous picket lines where teachers were chanting about a fair contracts or banging drums.
Vicente Perez said that is what he encountered at Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park when he tried to drop off his fourth- and sixth-grade boys Monday morning.
“I don’t want to go there,” said his youngest son, Kahlil, 9, prompting Perez to reconsider.
Perez called his wife on his cellphone and decided to either take the kids to a church or just keep them home.
At Disney Magnet School on the North Side, John Harvey said he was nervous dropping off his 7-year-old, Aiden, amid all the commotion.
Aiden’s mother, Sarah Vanderstow, said she had concerns dropping the second-grader off at an unfamiliar place, but since their usual school, Nettelhorst, was closed, they had no choice.
“I don’t know who these people are who will be watching him and that concerns me,” she said. “But I have to go to work and we can’t afford to pay for him to go somewhere else all day.”
CPS has budgeted to spend up to $25 million to provide temporary shelter for students, meals and organized activities for students between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. for as long as the strike drags on. The 144 schools are largely staffed by principals, central office employees and administrators, but appeared sparsely attended.