Skip to main content

Chicago teachers rally as both sides consider deal

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:26 PM EDT, Sat September 15, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Teacher says she misses students, community
  • A large rally is taking place in Chicago
  • A tentative deal has been reached between the union and school board
  • Union officials will meet this weekend to draft specific language

Teachers: What inspires you to keep teaching? Share your story with CNN iReport.

Chicago (CNN) -- Supporters of the Chicago Teachers Union rallied Saturday on the sixth day of a strike that has shut down the city's schools, even as a deal with the school board was in the works.

Both sides expressed optimism that students could be back in school by Monday, but the massive gathering was a reminder that until a deal is signed, the strike is not over.

"We don't have an agreement, we have a framework for an agreement," union President Karen Lewis reiterated at the rally Saturday at Union Park.

Joining the thousands of teachers at the rally were parents and students who declared their solidarity with them.

"I am willing to stand by my teachers' side for as long as it takes," high school student Angela Casa told the crowd, "because through this whole journey, they are keeping their heads up for us."

The union and the city's school board reached a tentative agreement on Friday over a dispute on new contract terms that had closed public schools for 350,000 students.

Union officials were meeting over the weekend to draft specific language for the agreement, Lewis said. They will then present the document to a special committee of union representatives, at which time a majority vote will be taken on whether to suspend the strike.

"Our delegates were not interested in blindly signing off on something they have not seen," Lewis said Friday.

However, Lewis was optimistic that the deal would be finalized.

Why they teach, despite it all

Chicago School Board President David Vitale was similarly positive about moving forward.

"We have in place frameworks around all of the major issues that should allow us to conclude this process and to conclude it in time for our kids to be back in school on Monday morning," he said.

A source close to the negotiations said some of the terms include: keeping the current length of school year and school day; giving principals the freedom to hire their own teachers; and, chief among the dispute's sticking points, updating the teacher evaluation system for the first time in 40 years.

Lewis said Friday afternoon that she was "very comfortable" with the teacher evaluations issue under the proposed framework agreement.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the progress made between the two sides after days of sometimes contentious meetings.

Opinion: Get past strike, fix Chicago schools

The union, which represents nearly 30,000 teachers and support staff, called the strike Sunday night.

Saturday, teacher Juanita Martinez said she was ready for it to end.

"This is more work than being in the classroom," she told CNN. "I'd rather be teaching. I miss my students, I miss my neighborhood, I miss my community. ... I'm ready to go back."

The union previously said the two sides had been close to a deal on pay, but far apart on teacher evaluations, benefits and other issues.

Teachers were concerned about job security in the wake of a new program that evaluates them based on their students' standardized test scores. Union board member Jay Rehak called the program "data-driven madness."

As many as 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs under the evaluation system, said Lewis, who had called the system "unacceptable." The mayor's office, the city and school officials have questioned that job-loss figure.

The median base salary for teachers in the Chicago public schools in 2011 was $67,974, according to the system's annual financial report.

Opinion: Chicago teachers' strike is a test for Democrats

CNN's Katherine Wojtecki and Sarah Aarthun contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Chicago teacher strike
Teacher Xian Barrett writes he knows people are angry at Chicago teachers, but the strikes is about kids, he says. Nobody wants kids in overheated classroms with too few books and more tests than teaching.
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Sat September 15, 2012
Fourth-grade teacher by day, adjunct professor and mother by night, Renee Longshore keeps a strict budget and pulls a second income all in the name of teaching.
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Mon September 17, 2012
The strike in the third-largest school system in the country is affecting more than 350,000 children. Here's a quick primer.
The teachers have taken it to the streets, and the strike has exploded into the public consciousness -- also schooling kids on politics and grassroots protest.
As the Chicago teachers strike continues, the threat that many of this year's top athletes will miss some crucial games is a real one.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Mon September 17, 2012
The Chicago teachers strike has forced into the open a debate about school reform that has simmered for several years.
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue September 11, 2012
The debate over teacher evaluations that's taken center stage in the Chicago schools strike could have major effects on the issue in the future, an education expert says.
The announcement of the strike was not surprising for most parents who'd been keeping up with the events -- but he's what was.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue September 11, 2012
The hard-nosed stance taken by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the Chicago teachers' strike dovetails with the education goals of his former boss, President Barack Obama, but observers disagreed Monday over how well it serves the city's schoolchildren.
updated 6:22 PM EDT, Tue September 11, 2012
It is easy to see the Chicago teachers strike as an unfortunate incident that will soon pass.
updated 3:34 PM EDT, Mon September 10, 2012
Education contributor Steve Perry weighs in on whether he feels teachers should be evaluated on merit or seniority.
We break down the key issues that are keeping teachers out of the classroom, what the teachers are asking for and what the schools are willing to offer.
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Mon September 10, 2012
The president of Chicago's Board of Education discusses the teacher strike and negotiations with CNN.
updated 11:30 PM EDT, Mon September 10, 2012
In Chicago, thousands of public school teachers and support staff represented by the Chicago Teachers Union have walked off their jobs after reaching an impasse in contract talks with the city.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT