Chicago teachers strike ends with a vote (+video)
Public school doors in Chicago will open on Wednesday following a settlement between the city and its teachers. Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel called the agreement, 'an honest compromise.'
Chicago public school teachers voted on Tuesday to end their strike and resume classes in the third-largest U.S. school district, ending a confrontation with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that focused national attention on struggling urban schools.Skip to next paragraph
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Some 800 union delegates representing the 29,000 teachers and support staff in Chicago Public Schools voted overwhelmingly to resume classes on Wednesday after more than two hours of debate.
"I am so thrilled that people are going back," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said. "Everybody is looking forward to seeing their kids tomorrow."
Lewis, an outspoken former high school chemistry teacher, said the entire membership of the union will cast a formal vote in the next two weeks to ratify a new contract agreement.
The delegates ended the strike on their second attempt, having decided on Sunday to continue the walkout for two more days so they could review details of a proposed three-year contract with Emanuel.
Emanuel had to retreat from a proposal to introduce merit pay for teachers and he promised teachers that at least half of all new hires in the district would be from union members laid off by the closing of schools.
Speaking at Walter Payton College Prep school in Chicago after the vote, Emanuel said he was pleased by the outcome.
"This settlement is an honest compromise," he said. "It means a new day and a new direction for Chicago public schools."
Lewis led the walkout on Sept. 10, the first Chicago teachers' strike in 25 years, to protest Emanuel's demand for sweeping education reforms. Some 350,000 public school students were affected by the largest U.S. labor dispute in a year.
Emanuel on Monday tried to get a court order ending the strike, angering the union. A court hearing on his request is scheduled for Wednesday.
US labor movement galvanized
The strike focused attention on a national debate over how to improve failing schools. Emanuel, backed by a powerful reform movement, believes poorly performing schools should be closed and reopened with new staff or converted to "charter" schools that often are non-union and run by private groups.
Teachers want more resources put into neighborhood public schools to help them succeed. Chicago teachers say many of their students live in poor and crime-ridden areas and this affects their learning. More than 80 percent of public school students qualify for free meals based on low family incomes.
Only about 60 percent of Chicago students graduate from high school, far below the national average of 75 percent and more than 90 percent in some affluent Chicago suburbs.
The decision by the union to walk out of classrooms eight days ago rather than accept Emanuel's reforms galvanized the weakened U.S. labor movement after a string of national defeats.