"This is, in my view, a strike of choice, and it's the wrong choice for our children," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday of the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years. "It's not necessary. We need to just finish the job."
As Chicago Public School teachers took to picket lines Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged them to continue contract negotiations and get kids back in class.
"Stay at the table," Emanuel implored during a visit to Maranatha Church, a school alternative during the strike. "Finish it for our children."
About 29,000 teachers went on strike Monday after months of contentious negotiations over salary, health benefits and a new teacher evaluation process. Emanuel said talks are down to two issues: evaluations and whether principals or the school board gets to hire new teachers.
"This is, in my view, a strike of choice, and it's the wrong choice for our children," Emanuel said, echoing his comments on Sunday night. "It's not necessary. We need to just finish the job."
The most recent negotiations were scheduled for 10 a.m. but reportedly didn't start until 11:30 a.m. Both Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said their team is ready to go.
"This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could've avoided," Lewis said Sunday, announcing the strike. "Throughout these negotiations, we've remained hopeful but determined. We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide students the education they so rightfully deserve."
Meanwhile some parents said they had to scramble Monday morning to find school alternatives for their children.
"I'm very frustrated that it's taken this long," parent Renee Edwards said, "and that parents were not told until 10 p.m. last night what the outcome would be, so it's just frustrating."
CPS designated 144 schools to remain open for half-days and hold activities, while multiple Safe Haven locations are open to host kid-friendly schedules, but Emanuel said the school district and teachers union can do one better.
"The safest place and the right place for our children is in the classroom," Emanuel said.
When asked if the strike is considered a test to his administration, the mayor said, "the only test that matters, and the only test i worry about, is the test these children face every day."
"We're down to two issues, and neither ... have to do with me," he said. "They have to do with the quality of our teachers in the classroom."
NBC Chicago has an array of reporters and producers covering the Chicago teacher strike. Check our live blog for continuous coverage and updates throughout the strike.