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Teachers’ Union: No Plans To Set Strike Date, School Will Open On Time

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Teachers Union Leafleting

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis passes out leaflets at the 95th Street Red Line terminal. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 08/24/12 11:20 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools parents can count on one thing – there will be school on the day after Labor Day, the first day of classes for hundreds of thousands of students.

But as CBS 2’s Susanna Song and WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya report, this does not mean there is no longer a chance of a strike at all.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

The reason there will not be a strike on the first day of classes is because the Chicago Teachers Union would have to file a 10-day strike notice by Saturday for that to happen, and union president Karen Lewis says that will not be happening.

“We’re not planning to file anything today or tomorrow,” she said.

Lewis says any strike date, if there is one, will be set by the union’s House of Delegates, which meets next Thursday.

Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement that officials plan to continue working hard at bargaining.

“The Chicago Teachers Union and the School District agree: school must and will start on time with the full school day on September 4, just as school started on time for Track E students on August 13. Just as our teachers and 140,000 students are already working hard at their desks, we will continue to work hard at the bargaining table to ensure that every student will be able to stay in the classroom every single day of this school year,” Brizard said in the statement.

Jashed Fakhrid-Deen, a parent at South Loop Elementary School at 1212 S. Plymouth Ct., told CBS 2’s Susanna Song that he understands where both sides of the bargaining table are coming from.

“If course it makes me feel good from my daughter’s standpoint, but I do understand the teachers wanting and needing the things that they need as far as support,” said Fakhrid-Deen, who is also a teacher himself. He said he “absolutely” wants teachers to keep fighting for their interests.

“I want the best education we can have for our children,” he said.

Fakhrid-Deen’s daughter, Khari, who is entering the fifth grade, added: “I feel good; I’m ready for the school year.”

She said she is looking forward to “learning new things that are more challenging to me.”

Meanwhile, as for a report that Mayor Emanuel plans to have a more senior layer of negotiators enter the talks, Lewis said the plans don’t make sense.

“I don’t understand what they would bring to the table,” Lewis said.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman reported Friday that if talks with the new negotiators seem like they’re headed in the right direction, Mayor Emanuel would be willing to get involved personally to help hammer out a deal at City Hall.

Lewis says she doubts that would help.

“It really doesn’t matter, because, you know, ultimately, he’s going to tell their people what they’re going to do anyway, right?” Lewis said. “Doesn’t he control the School Board?”

Lewis and other union leaders were handing out leaflets Friday morning at the 95th Street Red Line terminal on the city’s South Side.

On Thursday, teachers picketed outside Pickard Elementary, 2301 W. 21st Pl. On Wednesday, they demonstrated outside a Chicago School Board meeting.

Earlier this week, the union authorized Lewis to set a 10-day strike notice at any time.

The two sides have met 46 times, but still have reached no contract agreement.

School officials have said teachers refuse to moderate their pay demands, but teachers claim the district isn’t budging either, even after an independent arbitrator recommended a significant raise for teachers.

On Wednesday, the School Board and Brizard discussed contingency plans if a strike were to happen. There was no word as of earlier this week on how many sites would offer alternative programs, or exactly where they would be.

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