The expected vote on the contract deal reached by negotiators from the Chicago Teachers Union and the city never came on Sunday, ushering in a second week without school for the city's youth. Apparently the 800 members of the union's House of Delegates needed a bit more time to think over the terms of the deal. The delegates will meet again on Tuesday meaning the earliest that classes could resume would be Wednesday. "They are not happy with the agreement," said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. "They’d like it to be a lot better for us than it is."
The deal itself includes a number of the union's demands. Teachers who pursued further education or reached a certain experience level would get paid more, and more teachers would be hired to accommodate a longer school day. All teachers would also receive a more than 17 percent raise over the next four years. The hold up -- Lewis called it "the big elephant in the room" -- seems to be a provision from the city to close 120 schools as well as changes to the teacher evaluation system.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's not really interested in talking things over, though. Just a few minutes after the teachers union balked at the terms of the deal, he said that the city would file an injunction to force an end to the strike, arguing that the issues at hand were "non-strikeable" and that the strike "endangers the health and safety of our children." The mayor didn't mince his words. "I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Emanuel said. "This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children. Every day our kids are kept out of school is one more day we fail in our mission: to ensure that every child in every community has an education that matches their potential."
Rahm's not talking about a couple thousand kids, either. Since the strike started last Monday, 350,000 students have been out of school. Of course, one ought not rule out the possibility that the teachers have taken it personally at this point. We have been belittled, bullied and betrayed by this administration," Lewis said at a packed press conference in August. "Our members feel demoralized." So why not take a couple more days off?