Members of the Chicago Teachers Union picketed Monday at several schools over stalled contract talks.
Chicago Public Schools teachers have negotiated since last year and have been without a contract for almost two months.
While the two sides recently announced an interim agreement on the longer school day, other issues remain, including class size, a new evaluation process requiring 40 percent of teacher reviews be based on students’ performance, health benefits and compensation for working longer days.
Though the CTU hasn't issued a 10-day strike notice, they haven't given up on the possibility of a strike even as school starts Sept. 4 for a majority of students. Track E students returned to school last week.
“Students come first, but you can’t have a quality school district by putting a fair and equitable labor agreement last," said CTU President Karen Lewis in a statement. "After Labor Day we want to be where we belong—in the classroom. However, if talks continue as they have been, we will be where we need to be (and that is) on the line.”
CPS says students—not pickets—should remain the focus of the school year.
"Our focus should be on our kids and reaching a fair agreement at the negotiation table, where we have made significant progress over the last few weeks," said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. "Students must always come first and shouldn't be distracted from their learning especially now that kids throughout the district are benefitting from the start of the full school day."
Teachers authorized a strike vote in June following a series of contentious negotiations with the city. The CTU and CPS rejected an arbitrator's recommendation for a 15 percent to 20 percent pay increase. CPS had offered a 2 percent increase.
Members of the CTU said Friday they began printing protest signs to distribute among their ranks should a strike occur.
On Monday some teachers will picket at six schools throughout the day to "highlight ongoing disputes with the Chicago Public School system."
They started at Azuela Elementary School, 4707 W. Marquette Road, and Castellanos Elementary School, at 2524 S. Central Park Ave., at 7:30 a.m. and head to Banneker Elementary School and Burke Elementary School at 2:45 p.m. and 2:50 p.m. respectively. They end at Cather Elementary School and Sherwood Elementary School at 3:30 p.m.
Lewis said the pickets will not interfere with the school day or employees.