Chicago Teachers Go on Strike, City Tries to Occupy 350,000 Kids

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Chicago teachers protesting in July.
Chicago teachers protesting in July. Photo: Scott Olson/2011 Getty Images

Following months of feuding between their union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago teachers announced late on Sunday that they'll be on picket lines on Monday morning instead of in their classrooms. The 25,000-member Chicago Teachers' Union hasn't gone on strike in 25 years. "The kids in Chicago belong in the classroom," said Emanuel after negotiations failed. "Our kids do not deserve this." Though, ironically, the 350,000 students who are suddenly off from school indefinitely are the only people who are happy about the situation.

The Chicago Tribune reports that school board President David Vitale was in negotiations with the district all day on Sunday and the two sides were close to agreements on some issues, but teachers refused to extend their strike deadline. At issue are teacher compensation, health benefits, and a new teacher evaluation system that would be tied to students' standardized test scores. Emanuel has been pushing several reforms, including a longer school day, but teachers demanded more pay for working longer hours. CNN reports that at the last minute school officials offered a deal that would have given teachers a 16 percent raise over four years, but it didn't offer significant concessions on health benefits or evaluations, which the union says could lead to many layoffs based on arbitrary standards.

Chicago is the nation's third largest school district, and on Monday only 144 of its 675 schools will be open — and only for a half-day. Students will receive breakfast and lunch and for the rest of the day non-teachers will supervise "organized activities like independent reading or writing," according to the Tribune. The teachers' last strike in 1987 lasted nineteen days, but hopefully before things go that far someone will lock both sides in a room and force them to work out their differences — even about that purple monkey dishwasher part.