Chicago teachers strike in bitter contract dispute
Teachers ‘‘have no control over those scores,’’ said union coordinator John Kugler.
The union feared the evaluations could result in 6,000 teachers losing their jobs within two years. City officials disagreed and said the union has not explained how it reached that conclusion.
The strike involving more than 25,000 teachers meant no school for 350,000 students and raised the worries of parents who were concerned not just about their kids’ education but their safety. Gang violence in some parts of the city has spiked in recent months.
‘‘They’re going to lose learning time,’’ said Beatriz Fierro, whose daughter is in the fifth grade. ‘‘And if the whole afternoon they’re going to be free, it’s bad. Of course you’re worried.’’
In response, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said he would take officers off desk duty and deploy them to deal with any protests as well as the scores of students who might be roaming the streets.
The district staffed 144 schools with non-union workers and central office employees for half the day so students who are dependent on school-provided free meals would have a place to eat breakfast and lunch.
One after another, parents refused to leave their children at unfamiliar schools where they would be thrown together with kids and supervising adults they may never have met.
April Logan arrived at the Benjamin Mays Academy on the city’s South Side with the intention on dropping her 5-year-old daughter off but then thought better of it.
‘‘I don’t understand this, my baby just got into school,’’ she said, just before turning around and walking home with the child.
Some students expressed anger, blaming the district for interrupting their education.
‘‘They’re not hurting the teachers. They’re hurting us,’’ said Ta'Shara Edwards, a student at Robeson High School on the city’s South Side. She said her mother made her come to class to do homework so she ‘‘wouldn’t suck up her light bill.’’
However, many parents appeared sympathetic.
Sarah Allen, whose daughter is a seventh-grader, said she saw Emanuel at the Democratic National Convention ‘‘listening to Bill Clinton talk about compromise and cooperation.’’
But Emanuel seems to have ‘‘built a lifestyle around being a bully,’’ she said. ‘‘And it’s one thing to be a chief of staff and another to be a leader.’’
Emanuel, who has engaged in a public and often contentious battle with the union, is not personally negotiating, but he’s monitoring the talks through aides.
Not long after his election, the mayor’s office rescinded 4 percent raises for teachers. Then he asked the union to reopen its contract and accept 2 percent pay raises in exchange for lengthening the school day for students by 90 minutes, a request the union turned down.
Emanuel, who promised a longer school day during his campaign, attempted to go around the union by asking teachers at individual schools to waive the contract and add 90 minutes to the day. He halted the effort after being challenged by the union before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
The district and union agreed in July on a deal to implement the longer school day, crafting a plan to hire back 477 teachers who had been laid off rather than pay regular teachers more to work longer hours. That raised hopes the contract dispute would be settled soon, but bargaining stalled on the other issues.
Associated Press Writer Tammy Webber contributed to this report.