Chicago Goes Back to School

A teachers’ strike ends in one of the nation’s largest school districts

September 19, 2012

Students at Benjamin E. Mays Academy in Chicago, Illinois, head back to school on September 19 after a seven-day teachers' strike ends.

Around 350,000 students in Chicago, Illinois, returned to school on Wednesday after teachers ended a seven-day strike. The Chicago Teachers Union voted Tuesday night to end the strike after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the Chicago School District, the third-largest district in the nation.  

The end of the strike is a relief to teachers, administrators, parents and students. “I am elated. I couldn’t be happier,” said parent Erica Weiss. Her 6-year-old daughter had to come to work with her at times during the strike. “I have no one else to watch her … It just put everyone in a pickle.”

Mary Edmonds, a delegate from the Chicago Teachers Union, celebrates after voting to end the teachers' strike.

Mary Edmonds, a delegate from the Chicago Teachers Union, celebrates after voting to end the teachers' strike.

A Strike for Teachers

The Chicago Teachers Union, which represents and protects teachers, called for the strike to protest what they call unfair work conditions. Teachers say the biggest issues are health benefits, job security and poor classroom conditions. The school district and the union had tried to resolve their disagreements for 10 months, but could not come to an agreement. The strike was announced at midnight on September 10 after negotiations failed.

Union leaders said the new proposed contract settlement isn’t perfect, but it includes enough changes for teachers to return to work. The school district made changes to how closely new teacher evaluations are tied to student test scores and offered better opportunities for teachers who are laid off when their school is closed by budget cuts. The new contract also includes a longer school day and pay raises for teachers.

The Union’s more than 26,000 teachers and support staff will vote on the contract in the coming weeks. “We said that we couldn’t solve all the problems in the world with one contract, and it was time to end the strike,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said.

"This is an exciting day for the city of Chicago," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual said Wednesday as kids returned to school. "I'm excited that the kids are back doing the most important thing"—learning in the classroom.

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