Chicago teachers' strike leaves parents scrambling
The nation's third-largest public school system in chaos today as Chicago's teachers go on strike. Hundreds of thousands of parents are now scrambling to figure out what to do with their children.
After days of non-stop negotiating, the Chicago teachers union made this late night announcement: "We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike."
A strike by the city's 29,000 public school teachers and support staff means the third largest school district in the nation is effectively shut down. Its 400,000 student population will be without instruction and perhaps more importantly, many working families will be caught with no place to send their kids.
"This is totally unnecessary and avoidable and our kids do not deserve this," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago).
The school board, which was sounding optimistic, maintains it can't go any further. President David Vitale says more than 20 offers were made to the teachers.
"We have done everything we can," he said.
The core issues here involve pay raises and health care, the teacher evaluation system and a recall policy for laid-off teachers.
"We demand a fair contract now. Until there is one in place that our members will accept, we will be on the line," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president.
This strike is seen by many as the first real test for Mayor Emanuel and a challenge for President Obama, who has been relying on labor's support in this fall's election.
Negotiations will resume Monday. Meanwhile, the school district is asking community organizations and church, libraries and other groups to help keep the 400,000 district students busy.