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As strike goes on, parent support wavers for Chicago teachers

Signs are mounting that parent support for striking Chicago teachers, which has been strong, is eroding the longer the strike lasts. Union will decide later Tuesday whether to accept the contract that would end the strike.

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“This process has been run to benefit the adults in the system and not to benefit the children in the system, and we’re here to send the message that the kids need to be in school while they work out the details,” protest organizer Steve Timble told the Sun-Times.

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Other parents who did not take part in the protest had more empathy for their children’s teachers, but said they hoped a resolution would come this week.

If the union decides Tuesday to continue the strike, a Cook County Circuit Court judge will proceed with a court hearing Wednesday to take up a complaint that the strike is illegal. The Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel claim that Illinois law that does not allow teachers to strike over issues other than wages and benefits. The complaint also seeks an injunction to force teachers back into classrooms, saying the strike poses a threat to public health and safety.

To accommodate parents who needed day care during the strike, the school district identified 450 locations throughout the city, from public libraries to park district camps, where students would receive supervision. About 31,400 students took advantage of the programming, the district says. Other locations, including fitness clubs, the YMCA, and the famed Second City improvisational theater, also hosted day camps for kids.

Beth Wilson, a mother whose sons are in the first and third grades at Augustus H. Burley School, took advantage of different camps throughout the city for her children, but acknowledges she is hoping for a resolution on Tuesday.

“Everybody wants it to be taken care of as soon as possible,” Ms. Wilson says. “Parents wanted that last week, too.”

Her empathy remains with the teachers, especially after she learned they needed more time to digest the tentative contract that was put before the delegates late Sunday.

“Once I took my emotional attachment away and realized that they needed more time, that made more sense,” she says. “But it should be resolved today.”

If the strike continues, one possible outcome might be that some parents will consider shifting their children to private schools, says Carolyn Aberman, whose fifth-grader is at Decatur Classical School. “The longer this goes on, that will creep in the psyche of parents who might be exploring scholarships,” she says.

So far, says Ms. Aberman, she supports the teachers and does not hold accountable the teachers she knows personally.

“I do realize that this isn’t about what any individual teacher wants. There’s a union, there’s delegates, there’s a really big city we live in and a lot of different opinions, and I imagine and hope most teachers want to get back to school upon promise of fair contract,” she says. 

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