U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan hopeful teachers strike can be avoided

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.–U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday he’s confident that “adults can figure things out” on behalf of children and avert Chicago’s first teachers strike in 25 years.

Duncan served as Chicago Schools CEO before joining President Obama’s cabinet as education secretary.

Asked Wednesday whether it would be painful for him to see Chicago Public School teachers go on strike in his home town, Duncan said, “I don’t think they’re striking, are they? I thought they were still talking. They’re still talking. They’ve got some time. They’ve got some time…I’m very hopeful folks will work this out and do the right thing for kids and for the city. There’s still time to do that.”

Pressed on whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel has mishandled negotiations with Chicago teachers, Duncan said, “I’ve got a lot of confidence in adults that they’ll figure things out….Everybody’s working really hard and I have a lot of confidence good things will happen.”

Barring an 11th-hour agreement, Chicago teachers are scheduled to walk off the job on Monday for the first time since 1987. They authorized a strike by a 90 percent vote, fueled by their anger against a mayor who cancelled a previously-negotiated, four percent pay raise and tried to rush implementation of his signature plan for a longer school day and school year without consulting teachers about how that extra time in the classroom should be used.

On Labor Day, thousands of teachers marched around City Hall denouncing Emanuel as a “liar and a bully.” Duncan refused to comment on the name-calling by Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and others, saying he doesn’t “know all the details.”

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