Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked a state court today to force Chicago school teachers back to work and end a weeklong strike he calls illegal.
Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said city attorneys asked the Cook County Circuit Court to force Chicago Teachers Union members off the picket line and back into classrooms.
In a statement Sunday, Emanuel had called the strike illegal because it endangered students’ health and safety, and concerned issues — such as evaluations, layoffs and recall rights — that state law says cannot be grounds for a work stoppage.
The union and school leaders had seemed headed toward a resolution at the end of last week, saying they were optimistic students in the nation’s third-largest school district would be back in class by today. But teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer decided Sunday to remain on strike, saying they needed more time to review a complicated proposal.
Emanuel fired back, saying he told city attorneys to seek a court order forcing Chicago Teachers Union members back into the classroom.
Teachers on the picket line at Mark T. Skinner West Elementary School on Chicago’s near West Side declined to comment before the lawsuit was filed today as the possibility of legal action loomed over them.
The strike is the first for the city’s teachers in 25 years and has kept 350,000 students out of class, leaving parents to make other plans.
Working mom Dequita Wade said that when the strike started, she sent her son 15 miles away to a cousin’s house so he wouldn’t be left unsupervised in a neighborhood known for violent crime and gangs. She was hoping the union and district would work things out quickly.
“You had a whole week. This is beginning to be ridiculous,” Wade said. “Are they going to keep prolonging things?”
Months of contract negotiations have come down to two main issues central to the debate over the future of education across the United States: teacher evaluations and job security.
Union delegates said they felt uncomfortable approving the contract because they had seen it only in bits. The union will meet again Tuesday, after the end of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
“There’s no trust for our members of the board,” Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis told reporters Sunday night. “They’re not happy with the agreement. They’d like it to actually be a lot better.”
Emanuel showed his frustration at the striking public school teachers in a written statement Sunday night.
“This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children,” Emanuel said.
The strike has shined a spotlight on Emanuel’s leadership more than ever, and some experts have suggested the new contract — which features annual pay raises and other benefits — is a win for union.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: