Chicago teachers strike of the year 2012 is first time in more than a quarter century . In a rare step teachers of Chicago, the United States’ third largest school district, went on strike on Monday for the first time in a quarter century after their union and district officials failed to reach a contract agreement despite intense weekend negotiations.
More than 26,000 teachers and support staff hit the picket lines early on Monday, while the school district and parents carried out plans for keeping nearly 400,000 students safe and occupied while classes remain empty in the coming days.
The strike by teachers caused a lot of worry for the working parents even as a number of churches, libraries and other groups plan to offer day camps and other activities.
School officials said they will open more than 140 schools between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm so that the children can eat breakfast and lunch in a district where many students receive free meals. The district asked community organizations to provide additional programmes for students. But it is not clear how many families will send their children to the added programmes.
According to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis there were disputes between the teachers and officials on compensation, but were on other issues, including health benefits and a new teacher evaluation system based too heavily on students’ standardized test scores, which she said would be unfair to teachers because it could not adequately account for outside factors that affect student performance, including poverty, violence and homelessness.
She said the evaluations could result in 6,000 teachers losing their jobs within a couple of years.
“This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could have avoided,” she said. “We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.”
Criticizing the strike Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: “This is not a strike I wanted.” “It was a strike of choice … it’s unnecessary, it’s avoidable and it’s wrong.”
Emanuel said the district had offered the teachers a 16 percent pay raise over four years, doubling an earlier offer.
For Emanuel, the timing of the strike may be inopportune as his city administration is facing big jump in murders and shootings in metropolis and its vicinity. Besides, he just agreed to take a larger role in fundraising for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
The Mayor said the evaluation would not count in the first year.
Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the evaluation was mandated by state law but “was not developed to be a hammer,” but to help teachers get better.