Chicago teachers strike for first time in quarter century


Third grade students in summer school in Chicago on July 2, 2003.


Tim Boyle

Tens of thousands of Chicago teachers went on strike today over employment benefits in their first such move in 25 years, reported Reuters.

The no-show by over 25,000 teachers comes in response failed Sunday night talks between teachers' unions and school district officials over employment provisions, said Reuters.

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The disputed benefits are part of reforms demanded by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. His insistence on tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results as well as moves to give school principles more authority have complicated talks, according to Reuters. Critics say the changes would overemphasize test scores and undermine less qualitative education efforts. 

The standoff reflects concerns that lay at the heart of a nationwide debate on education reforms led by the Obama administration.

Emanuel denounced today's strike as unnecessary "given how close we are" to a solution, reported the Associated Press

"It was a strike of choice," he said, later adding, "it's unnecessary, it's avoidable and it's wrong. "

It also meant a free day for Chicago's roughly 350,000 school-age public school students, not to mention a panic attack for working parents, whom Reuters said were racing to provide alternative supervision. 

Many of the kids will go to community centers, places of worship and public facilities readied for a half-day of emergency childcare as part of the unions'  $25 million strike "contingency plan," said AP