Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is turning to the courts to try to put an end to a teachers strike that's entering its second week and has left parents scrambling to make alternative child care arrangements for at least two more days.
The union and school leaders seemed headed toward a resolution at the end of last week, saying they were optimistic students in the nation's third-largest school district would be back in class by Monday. But teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer decided Sunday to remain on strike, saying they needed more time to review a complicated proposal.
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Emanuel fired back, saying he told city attorneys to seek a court order forcing Chicago Teachers Union members back into the classroom.
The strike is the first for the city's teachers in 25 years and has kept 350,000 students out of class, leaving parents to make other plans.
Emanuel called the walkout "illegal" and pledged late Sunday to seek an injunction in court to force an end to the city's first teachers strike in a quarter century leaders and return more than 350,000 students to the classroom.
Delegates had met with Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis for nearly three hours Sunday to review a tentative contract that had been brokered after months of negotiation, but decided to extend the strike.
"They're not happy with the agreement. They'd like it to be a lot better for us than it is," Lewis said. "This is the deal we got. This is not a good deal by any stretch of the imagination, not (compared) to what our members are (used) to having."
Delegates expressed frustration that they hadn't been given more time to consider the lengthy contract revisions and said they would meet with their members Tuesday, after the Jewish holidays.
"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Emanuel said in a released statement.
Emanuel called upon CPS officials "to explore every action possible" to return students to school. He has maintained for over a week that the two major sticking points in negotiations - evaluations and the ability to recall teachers who have been laid off - are not legal grounds for a work stoppage.
In continuing the strike, the union runs the risk of losing the support of parents who have backed them up to now.
"The exercise of the power to strike carries with it a special responsibility to those not at the table - the students and parents - and to the realities facing the district," said Terry Mazany, CEO of Chicago Community Trust and the former interim CPS chief. "To press further is to jeopardize the respect and good will gained over the past many months."
If the strike goes past Wednesday, Emanuel will consider other options to get kids back in school, an administration source said.