Chicago Teachers Halt One-Day Strike — For Now | WBEZ
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Chicago Teachers Halt One-Day Strike — For Now

Updated at 8:55 p.m.

The Chicago Teachers Union announced Wednesday that they will take action if the cash-strapped school district imposes one more unpaid day off.

What type of action would be decided at an emergency meeting, which CTU President Karen Lewis said will be called if Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool follows through on a plan to end the school year 13 days early to help with a mid-year budget shortfall.

Claypool said he will decide within the next few weeks whether school will end on June 1 or June 19, as planned.

The union had considered protesting an early end to the school year — and the ensuing loss in pay — with a one-day strike on May 1. By waiting for Claypool to make an announcement, the teachers leave the door open for a strike throughout May.

While teachers and staff won’t be on strike, Lewis said many union members will join other groups on May 1 to honor of May Day, an international day calling attention to the plight of workers. Lewis said she expects most teachers will be in class that day.

CPS said it could cancel school early unless the state forks over extra money through a civil rights lawsuit it filed against the state. But that plan is considered a Hail Mary — the judge is speeding up hearings on that case, but hasn’t promised to rule quickly.

If Claypool does end school on June 1, teachers would take as much as a 10 percent pay cut. The teachers have already been forced to take five unpaid days off.

Some union delegates said teachers in their schools didn’t want to take action on May 1 because they’d risk losing yet another day of pay.

Some also worried that their stand against CPS would be drowned out by the concerns of other workers participating in a massive May Day labor strike to protest President Donald Trump’s policies.

CPS had filed a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Board to try to prevent Chicago Teachers from striking on May 1. A hearing on that complaint is scheduled for Monday.

CPS released a statement Wednesday night calling on the union to help the district fight for more money from the state.

"We hope that all Chicagoans can stand united against the racially discriminatory funding system that Governor Rauner is perpetuating against Chicago students," according to the statement. "This separate and unequal system is at the root of CPS' funding challenges, and we are fighting in court to prevent students losing out on valuable instruction that is propelling their academic gains."

Lewis and other union leaders have been critical of the district's demands for more state money. The union maintains the state should be funding schools more fairly, but claim some of CPS' financial problems are due to mismanagement and an unwillingness of Mayor Rahm Emanuel to impose more taxes on corporations and wealthy people. 

This would have been the second year in a row that Chicago teachers have participated in a one day strike. Last year, teachers and staff walked out on April 1 to try to pressure Gov. Bruce Rauner to give the school district more money.

CPS also complained to the labor board about last year’s strike, which the labor board ruled it was illegal. However, when the teachers union and CPS reached a contract deal this past fall, both sides agreed to drop any legal claims against each other.

Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @sskedreporter or @wbezeducation.

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