What you should know about pending CTU strike

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Will they or won’t they? That’s the question at stake for Chicago Public Schools families and staffers wondering if Chicago’s teachers are going to walk out Tuesday morning for the second time since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office.

Negotiations to secure a contract to replace the one that expired in June 2015 have gone on all weekend between Chicago Teachers Union leaders and the Board of Education with no deal yet. The CTU’s Big Bargaining Team is expected to convene again on Monday as it did Saturday to discuss the progress of the talks and perhaps consider a written offer from the Board of Education. Here’s what parents and Chicagoans ought to know.

When could we know for sure?

One of the 40 Big Bargaining Team members said they’ll bargain until the deadline. That’s Monday at midnight. “Unless you hear otherwise, the strike begins Tuesday, Oct. 11,” the union told members on Friday, adding that they should plan to walk picket lines starting at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and every day while the strike lasts. Updates will also be posted on the CTU’s website and on social media.

How long would the strike last?

No idea. In 2012, teachers stayed out of work for seven school days. But strikes of earlier generations in Chicago took many weeks to resolve. As it did in 2012, CPS likely will consider legal action through the courts and with the state’s educational labor relations board to cut short a teachers strike. Real-life consequences for high-schoolers could kick in as soon as the end of the week when state-level sports and activities good for college scholarships begin.

Will the strike days be made up?

CPS has not yet released any plans to make up potentially lost days, saying they believe a walkout can be avoided.

What happens to kids?

CPS students can spend the normal school day in schools if they have nowhere else to go. All school buildings will remain open for the duration of a strike. But the district encouraged parents to take other options if they have them since no teachers, aides or any other CTU members — including substitute teachers — should report to work inside schools. “To do so would be crossing the picket line,” the union warned. Kids going to schools should expect to see their teachers picketing outside, with the CTU advising that “Every member needs to picket every day in order to demonstrate our collective unity and determination.”

More options through the Chicago Park District and nonprofits are also available at www.cps.edu/strikeplan. Children in Chicago’s public charter schools won’t be affected since their teachers aren’t in the CTU. Kids attending the UNO Charter School Network could see their own teachers in a separate union strike as soon as Oct. 19.

What are CPS and the teachers still tussling over?

After talks that began nearly two years ago, the argument boils down to money for teachers as well as for schools, which have suffered a spate of budget cuts in recent years. And CPS, which still is counting on state leaders to hand over more than $200 million for the current school year, says it doesn’t have the money to do everything the teachers have asked for. District leaders say they want to give raises while asking teachers to pay more toward their pensions and health care. The CTU wants the city to use what it believes are hundreds of millions of dollars in its tax increment finance surplus to pay for smaller class sizes, social workers and librarians in every school and financial benefits for union members that don’t cut current levels.

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