By Daniel Politi | Slate. com | http://slate.me/PaRVAS
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the walkout by teachers was "avoidable" and that "this is a strike of choice" Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, at 7:45 AM ET :: The school year has barely started and more than 400,000 students in Chicago will have a day off today as teachers called for the first public-school strike in the nation’s third-largest school district in a quarter century. It’s also the first walkout in a big U.S. urban district since one in Detroit in 2006, points out the Wall Street Journal. Almost 30,000 teachers and support staff will not be working after union as school officials failed to reached an agreement during 400 hours of negotiations, reports CNN.
And while parents across the city scrambled to figure out what on earth they would do with the children Monday morning, the fallout from the strike could go far beyond President Obama’s home city. The confrontation between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the union, which began shortly after he took office, could end up affecting education reform across the country. It could also conceivably affect Obama’s presidential campaign if the work stoppage isn’t resolved quickly and leads to straining of relations between Democrats and national labor unions, points out Reuters.
Considering he conflict comes at a time when unions are finding themselves on the defensive over collective bargaining by public employees, the issue is being watched across the country, notes the Associated Press.
Still, none of the national implications much matter for the parents trying to figure out where they will send their kids. The school district will open 144 schools in the morning, although parents have been urged to find other alternatives. Needless to say, their frustration will only grow if the walkout lasts more than a couple of days, points out the Chicago Sun Times.
After negotiating all day, school board President David Vitale essentially threw up his hands late Sunday, saying there was nothing more to offer after the district put forward a proposal that would give teachers a 16-percent pay raise over four years, plus other benefits. Yet the union insists that while they could be close to agreeing on compensation, their main concerns now have to do with health benefits and a teacher evaluations system, which, of course, ties in with job security, reports the Chicago Tribune.
"I believe this is avoidable because this is a strike of choice," Emanuel said at a news conference, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Fitch Ratings had warned a strike would make it “difficult” for the nation’s third-largest district to balance its budget and improve educational standards, reports Bloomberg.