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Chicago Teachers To Rally Over Contract Snag

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Chicago Public Schools

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Upset with contract talks, the Chicago Teachers Union says it’s planning a big rally to show unity.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey says thousands of teachers will rally at the Auditorium Theater, but the event will not include a strike vote.

“There’s been talk about a longer school day, despite the fact there is no funding for a longer school day,” said Sharkey.

Sharkey said that a recent poll of CTU members showed that 19,000 of the 21,000 who took the survey expressed dissatisfaction with the current administration proposals. If those numbers hold, that’s more than the 75 percent of membership needed to eventually authorize a strike.

“The mayor has failed to convince either the teachers of the city, or frankly the parents and public in this city, that his proposals are what’s best for students,” Sharkey said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding Reports

The union said the Emanuel administration is not putting sufficient funding in schools to pay for his plans.

“The board recently announced an 85 percent cut in capital spending, and that happens at the same time that we have schools without playgrounds, that we have schools that are scheduled to meet this summer with no air conditioning, that we have 160 schools without libraries. We feel there is an insufficient plan for that,” Sharkey said. “And yet, somehow we do have the money to be opening 60 new charter schools. Politically, our schools are going in the wrong direction.”

Administrators and CTU have been clashing over a number of issues, including lengthening the school day and the expansion of charter schools.

In a statement, CPS said the union “has deliberately distorted our proposals by misleading their members about the facts on the table.”

District officials said an independent fact-finder is working on a report that could serve as the basis for a contract compromise.

Thousands of Chicago Public School teachers are expected to attend the 4:30 p.m. rally at the Auditorium Theatre and post-meeting march to the Board of Education’s headquarters, the union said.

Teachers will be bused after school to attend.

The union stressed Wednesday’s rally will not include a strike vote, but rather a display of unity to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“We are not meeting tomorrow to take a strike authorization vote,” Sharkey said.

But from the tone of recent union talk, one might soon be coming.

Chicago Public Schools officials take offense to what they see as union posturing and distortion of facts. They pointed out an independent fact finder will issue a report this summer, which could serve as a contract compromise.

“That’s why the CTU today should fully commit to this process and declare no strike authorization votes will be taken before allowing their members to first review the independent fact finder’s compromise report,” CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said. “Their continued threat of holding a strike authorization vote before this independent report has even been issued will only hurt our kids and we owe them the opportunity to see this process to its end.”

But, strategically speaking, sources indicate a strike vote could happen sooner, rather than later, before teachers head out for summer break.

“We’re gonna make a strike authorization vote when it’s appropriate,” Sharkey said.

Sources said, when it’s time to take that vote, teachers will be given a day or two notice to cast it. If they were to vote in favor of a strike, the union’s delegates would then set a strike date.

CTU officials said that date, if there is one, would likely be close to the start of the school year.

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