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With Chicago teachers currently planning to go out on strike on Monday, negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the management of the Chicago Public Schools continue. But while CTU President Karen Lewis said Friday morning that talks were improving, as of Friday afternoon a union spokeswoman said that "Talks are expected to continue through the weekend," with union negotiators available "around the clock. If a contract is produced, a special session of our House of Delegates would be called in order to cancel a strike. As it stands there is no plan to do that."
Chicago teachers have already had one raise taken from them; now the district wants to give them raises of just 2 percent a year while working longer hours. Those are some big issues to work through, and given the raise teachers should have gotten but didn't, they will obviously want to be sure any contract they agree to is ironclad. So while teachers and school system management have made a great deal of progress in negotiations through the summer months, significant issues remain unresolved. According to the CTU, as of Aug. 29:
Labor talks have been productive on some fronts such as winning provisions for nursing mothers, ensuring textbooks will be available on day one, teachers will have access to functioning computers and counselors and social workers will have appropriate, private workspaces to serve students. But the bigger issues such as wages, job security and evaluations are on the table and the two sides remain far apart.
Teachers are also concerned about how the longer school days that Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed for are being implemented. After teachers objected fiercely to longer school days without added resources to make the time count, the district hired hundreds of new teachers. But in schools that began the school year in August:
Teachers say they’re being forced to take on other duties during their prep periods in violation of the agreement. Schedules for those in new positions have been in constant flux since the Track E schools started two weeks ago.
Aides report supervising up to 96 kids each during newly implemented recesses.
Teachers not having time to prepare for their classes and aides supervising 96 kids at a time are perfect examples of how teachers unions bargain for things that improve education for kids. But that doesn't diminish the importance of teachers unions also bargaining for things that help teachers—that if they work more hours, they should be paid more. That the evaluation systems that determine their professional futures should be tested and found reliable. On these fronts, Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools are giving teachers a lot of good reasons to strike. This weekend will determine whether that happens.