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Teachers Strike Issues at Stake

CPS Board President Says Differences are Close, Karen Lewis Disagrees

Negotiations between the Chicago Public School Board and the Chicago Teachers Union broke down Sunday night, resulting in the first teachers strike in 25 years.

Teachers, along with some students and supporters, began marching on Monday morning. Teachers were marching up and down Archer Avenue and many motorists honked their horns in approval.

Picketers, many of whom were from Dore Elementary School, 6108 S. Natoma Ave., could be seen marching up and down 63rd Street. A group gathered at 63rd Street and Narragansett Avenue. Some of the protestors could be heard shouting, ÒHey, Hey, Ho Ho, Rahm Emanuel has got to go.”

Another large group of teachers from Kinzie Elementary School and Kennedy High School and supporters could be seen marching around both schools near 56th Street and Narragansett Avenue.

After about a half hour, they joined a larger group that began marching along Archer Avenue.

Dave Vitale, president of the Chicago Board of Education, said Sunday night a half hour before the Chicago Teachers Union held their own press conference that their differences were not that great and thought a strike could be alleviated.

ÒWe’ve made over 20 offers to improve the document that we presented to them last week,” said a weary Vitale.

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said that she was not aware that Vitale was trying to get a hold of her but said it probably was too late.

ÒNegotiations have been intense but productive, however, we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike,” said Lewis on Sunday outside the Merchandize Mart. ÒThis is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could avoid. Throughout these negotiations have I remained hopeful but determined. We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.”

While both Lewis and Vitale said raises were not holding up negotiations. However, Lewis said many issues have not been dealt with including class size and a reasonable timetable for air-conditioned classrooms. Lewis said that there has been concessions for nursing mothers and 500 teachers will be back at work.

ÒRecognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation,” added Lewis. ÒHowever, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits.”

But what has become an increasingly tense issue in the evaluation procedures given to teachers based solely on standardized test scores, according to he CTU.

ÒAs we continue to bargain in good faith, we stand in solidarity with parents, clergy and community-based organizations who are advocating for smaller class sizes, a better school day and an elected school board. Class size matters,” said Lewis. ÒIt matters to parents. In the third largest school district in Illinois there are only 350 social workers Ñ putting their caseloads at nearly 1,000 students each.”

Tensions became frayed Tuesday when Vitale took offense to some comments made by Lewis. The CTU president told striking teachers to continue their protests while she goes back to the Òsilliness” of negotiating with CPS.

Vitale said the board has given the teachers a written proposal but Lewis has not been available to view it, he said.

As of the News-Herald, deadline late Wednesday afternoon, the teacher’s strike was in its third day.

The teachers have the support of Clearing resident and Dore LSC member Judy Parlin.

ÒI fully support the teachers,” said Parlin, who has two children who attend Dore School. ÒI think Mayor Emanuel is just being stubborn.

ÒWe have wonderful teachers at Dore,” added Parlin. ÒI have signs in my windows and I honk my horn for them.”

Some of the literature teachers have been passing out is that classroom sizes may increase from 36 to 55 students due to the state’s money woes, added Parlin.

The CPS has denied that additional students will be added to each classroom.

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