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Possible Chicago Teacher Strike Looms After Talks Break Down

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said an informal poll of teachers at 150 public schools showed "overwhelming" support for a strike if contract talks with the Emanuel administration break down. (Credit: CBS)

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said an informal poll of teachers at 150 public schools showed “overwhelming” support for a strike if contract talks with the Emanuel administration break down. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Talks have broken down between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, and the possibility of a teacher strike is beginning to loom.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports, even if a strike happens, it would not begin until much later in the year.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports

First comes a three-member panel, which has until mid-July to make a recommendation for settlement terms.

If those recommendations are rejected within 15 days, the Chicago Teachers Union still cannot legally strike for another 30 days.

And new legislation passed at the urging of the mayor sets a very high bar before teachers can strike. It requires 75 percent of the union’s members — not just those who vote — to authorize a walkout.

CPS has made it clear that it is the Teachers Union that has triggered this next phase, and that negotiations can still continue. The union says it does not want a strike, but the move might be necessary.

“Public school teachers are not looking forward to a strike next year,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a news release, “we look forward to being in our classrooms with our students. However, given the hostile climate created by the current administration, it is imperative that we are all prepared.”

The union has accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard, and the Chicago Board of Education of leaving teachers out of efforts to improve schools and forcing them to accept a longer school day and longer school year without explaining how to pay for it or use the extra time to benefit students.

When talk of a strike began mounting earlier this month, the mayor said it was a distraction from the teachers’ real job.

“Anytime anybody’s not focused on their first priority – which is teaching our children – that’s where I get angst,” Emanuel said “There will be plenty of time for other discussions. Don’t take away from your main mission, your job, what the people of the city of Chicago, the parents, the taxpayers expect of you, which is to teach our children.”

Brizard said earlier this month that talk of a strike at this point is unfortunate.

“We shouldn’t be talking about the s-word. Let’s talk about finding a way to work together to improve a system that will benefit nearly a half million children,” Brizard said.

Chicago teachers have not gone on strike since 1987.