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Teachers Go On Strike In West Chicago

Teachers picket outside Gary Elementary School in West Chicago, on the first day of a strike for Elementary School District 33. (Credit: Nancy Harty/WBBM)

Teachers picket outside Gary Elementary School in West Chicago, on the first day of a strike for Elementary School District 33. (Credit: Nancy Harty/WBBM)

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Updated 02/04/13 – 11 a.m.

WEST CHICAGO (CBS) – Elementary school teachers in West Chicago hit the picket lines on Monday, after going on strike.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports the teachers’ strike in West Chicago Elementary School District 33 is the first time in more than 60 years teachers in the district have walked out of their classrooms.

More than 4,000 students were affected by the strike, as teachers put down their lesson plans, and picked up picket signs.

Teachers have said it’s the district board members, not the students, who need to learn.

Union negotiator Bridget Fors said, “Teachers feel very frustrated, they are feeling like their voices are not being heard.”

The main sticking points between the teachers’ union and the district have been salaries and health insurance premiums. School officials have said budgetary restrictions will force them to place a cap on how much it pays for health insurance.

The two main sticking points have been pay raises and health insurance costs.

“We had hoped that we would have settled a long time ago,” Fors said.

The two sides had been in contract talks for 16 months. They met for 11 hours on Sunday, but could not reach an agreement to avoid the strike.

District 33 board member Dave Barclay said, “We hope it will be short.”

So does 5th grader Leslie Pena, who was told she could not participate in the enrichment program offered for students during the strike.

“The school said it was too late to register,” she said.

The district has opened two care centers to provide enrichment programs during the strike, but only for students who pre-registered. The district said made exceptions for emergency situations.

Leslie’s stay-at-home parents will watch her, but it’s not ideal.

Her brother, Luis Pena, said it was frustrating for the family that Leslie was missing class.

“She wants to learn,” he said. “As you see, she does have a little bit of speech impediment, so she comes here to learn.”

It was not known when the two sides planned to meet again.