KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Late Sunday night, two hours before the deadline for signing a new contract, Chicago Public Schools parents learned classrooms would be empty on Monday. More than 25,000 of the district’s teachers had gone on strike.
“Those are tough issues they have to deal with, and I'm afraid it's going to linger much longer than we would like," explained Kyle Rogers, a Chicago Public Schools parent.
His three children: a junior in high school, a freshman in high school and a 7th grader, all attend Chicago Public Schools. While the teachers are on strike, he and his wife have opted to work at home in split-shifts to make sure they are safe.
In Rogers’ mind, the unresolved issues of teacher salary, teacher evaluations and classroom support could be put to rest if the mayor could work together with the teacher's union.
“Rahm Emanuel has a very strong personality and I'd like for him to change things. I support him but at the same time, I think he has to do that in a manner that is workable to the other organizations that are at play," he said.
Andrea Flinders joined Kansas City Public Schools in 1977. Now, she heads the local teachers union.
“We have a three-year contract with openers every year for salary, benefits and one non-budgetary item," she explained when asked about the negotiation process in Kansas City.
The negotiations take place between negotiating committees from the district and the union. Once a contract is agreed on, it goes to the union body for a vote. If the contract passes that vote, the school board votes on it too as a final seal of approval.
This school year's contract is still up in the air.
“This year we are way behind schedule," said Flinders.
The district waited until after state assessments to start negotiating. One main goal, Finders says, is to increase teacher salary.
“This is the year that the district has said we're going to catch you up on salaries, we're going to work with you on some other things. But, unfortunately, we've had some issues with that so it's taken longer than we thought it would,” she said.
"Our teachers are the lowest-paid teachers in the area," Flinders added.
Flinders said the union would like to be paid at least the average of what surrounding districts’ teachers are paid.
As she watched the strike in Chicago unfold, she knows that decision was a last resort.
“No teacher wants to go on strike because they know it affects the children, it affects the parents of those children," said Flinders.
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