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Chicago teachers on the brink of strike

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 9/13/2012, 12:05 p.m.

They're not exactly striking yet, but Chicago's teachers are pretty close.

On Monday, Chicago Teachers Union members started protesting outside of year-round schools already in session, looking to reach an agreement on a new contract. The majority of Chicago's students return to school on Sept. 4.

While the union claims they're currently engaging in "informational picketing," 20,000 "on strike" signs were printed just in case a work stoppage occurred. In an emailed statement to the AmNews, the CTU explained some of the issues they have brought to the table.

"Public school educators also remain concerned about the district's refusal to provide adequate wrap-around services for students severely impacted by poverty and violence in addition to threats of ballooning class sizes," read the statement. "Teachers are concerned about the new evaluation process of which 40 percent of the review is based on how students perform on standardized tests. Job security, health benefits and teacher pay have not been resolved."

The union's contract expired on June 30.

The union wanted a pay raise to align with the increased length of the school day and year (20 percent) required by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Chicago Public Schools offered the union a 2 percent salary increase, and in July it made an interim deal that would keep the longer school day but not increase the workload of CPS members.

According to reports, a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said the two sides have made significant progress on negotiations. Nothing similar was heard from the CTU.

The AmNews reached out to President Barack Obama's press office and asked if he's concerned about the situation in his old stomping grounds. There was no response.

"We recognize strikes are not popular," read CTU's emailed statement. "However, they are the strongest tool public workers have in ensuring their rights are not trampled upon and working conditions are fair and equitable."