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Chicago Teachers Take Strike Vote

Chicago teachers began voting on whether to authorize a strike. The vote does not mean a strike will happen. The last time teachers went on strike in Chicago was in 2012. It lasted seven days.

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Chicago Teachers Take Strike Vote

Fifth graders at Coonley Elementary show support for teachers before school on Wednesday. Teachers voted on whether to authorize a strike.

WBEZ/Becky Vevea

Chicago teachers began voting on whether to authorize a strike Wednesday.

The vote does not mean a strike will happen.

According to state law, Chicago Public Schools or the Chicago Teachers Union would have to call for a specific kind of mediation, known as “fact-finding”. That process takes at least 75 days and then the union would have to give a 10-day strike notice before a walkout would occur.

CPS officials said Monday the vote was premature because neither side had called for fact-finding yet. There is a mediator currently working with the two parties.

Fifth grader Miles Pinsof-Berlowitz was one of several students and parents showing support for teachers outside Coonley Elementary on the North Side Wednesday morning. He remembers the strike in 2012 and says he thinks things have gotten better.

“It’s improved so much, now there’s a music room a drama room,” Pinsof-Berlowitz said. “We have so many specials classes, some days we have two and they’re an hour long, it’s awesome.”

But his classmate Zoe Hanson said not every school in Chicago is as lucky as Coonley.

“We have to support those teachers who work really hard to keep their schools open,” Hanson said.

Nora Wiltse is the librarian at Coonley and said the union is hoping that they don’t have to go on strike, but negotiations have stalled.

“We kind of just have to play the card that we have and that’s a strike authorization vote,” she said. (Wiltse last spoke with WBEZ about the loss of librarians across Chicago.)

CPS officials estimated the cost of the union’s proposals so far and they say the total is over $1 billion. District chief Forrest Claypool is struggling to get a deal with the state that would shore up a budget shortfall this year.

Parents outside Coonley said they know there are financial problems at the district, but that some of the proposals -- like eliminating most standardized testing -- would actually save the schools hundreds of millions.

“They find money to cover up their problems and cover up their mistakes and they’re choosing not to find money for schools even though it should be our number one priority,” said Erica Hade.

The strike authorization voting will last three days and union officials anticipate results will be tallied by Monday.

Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her @WBEZeducation.

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