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Vote to end Chicago teachers strike might happen Tuesday

September 18, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Unionized teachers in Chicago walked a picket line for the seventh day on Tuesday as their delegates prepared to meet and possibly vote on whether to end the strike that has kept about 350,000 students out of the classrooms.

The House of Delegates is scheduled to meet in the afternoon to discuss a proposed contract settlement negotiated last week. The delegates rebuffed the plan on Sunday, with many saying they needed more details.

If the delegates vote to accept the agreement, the strike would be ended while the full membership votes on the agreement. That process is expected to take two weeks.

PHOTOS: Teachers strike in Chicago

If delegates vote down the proposal, the union will have to fight an effort by the city to get a court to order them back to work. A hearing on that judicial effort by the Chicago Public Schools is tentatively set for Wednesday.

“It takes a lot to start a strike. You don't want to prematurely end it,” Jay Rehak, an English teacher and union delegate told the Associated Press. Rehak said he planned to survey his colleagues at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School before voting at a meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. Central Time.

The strike in the nation's third-largest school district began last week when teachers and educators were unable to come to terms on a variety of issues, especially teacher evaluations and layoff policies. The battle has pitted an angry union against Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with whom the labor leaders have sparred before.

The strike has been closely watched because of Emanuel’s former post as chief of staff to President Obama. But it has also drawn attention from education reformers who seek to broaden the use of teacher evaluations as a way, they say, of improving how children are educated. The evaluations would be based in part on the standardized test scores of students.

Unionized teachers have opposed unilateral imposition of new evaluations, arguing that the criteria should be negotiated like all other work rules. They also question the value of testing as part of the evaluation process, arguing that student performance varies too much because of factors outside the classroom.

The job action has taken a toll on parents who have been forced to find alternatives for their children. Some schools have remained open to supply meals to students who need them.

According to media reports, the sides have agreed to allow the limited use of student test scores as part of the teacher evaluations. Salaries would increase in steps over several years from the current starting pay of $49,000 a year. Chicago teachers average about $76,000 a year.

In exchange, the city will get a longer school day sought by Emanuel.

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