Chicago Teacher Strike Goes to Fourth Day

CTU President: "We're hoping we can continue in a forward direction"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    There will be no school for Chicago Public School students on Thursday as the city's first teacher strike in 25 years goes into a fourth day.

    The head of Chicago's Teachers Union said Wednesday evening that progress had been made on some matters but negotiations were ongoing on proposals she said "support and encourage and enrich" students.

    "We're hoping we can continue in a forward direction," said CTU President Karen Lewis.

    Lewis: Our Proposals Support Students

    [CHI] Lewis: Our Proposals Support Students
    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks with reporters at about 7 p.m. Wednesday after a third day of negotiations with school officials.

    Thousands of teachers walked off the job Monday after months of negotiations failed to result in a new contract. It's the city's first teacher strike since October 1987.

    At about 8:30 p.m., CPS Chief Education Advisor Barbara Byrd-Bennett told reporters that school officials were holding out hope that teachers and students could return to class Thursday while the negotiations continued.

    That's precisely what Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier in the day had implored the union to consider.

    It didn't happen.

    Lewis said Wednesday's discussions included concerns about school-closings, the recruitment and hiring of teachers of varying backgrounds and ethnicities, schools not having playground equipment and the lack of air conditioning in many schools.

    "Our children are sweltering in 98-degree weather while people that sit in air conditioned buildings with spreadsheets are treating our children like data-points," Lewis said outside the Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Avenue. "Our children are not expendable. We are extremely concerned about it and our proposals account for that."

    NBCChicago.com reported last summer that nearly 75 percent of Chicago's public schools lacked air conditioning. Summer classes were canceled at least twice this summer due to excessive heat.

    Additionally, and apparently contrary to what Byrd-Bennett said earlier in the day, the two sides have had "hours" of face-to-face negotiating time.

    "We have not formally met with them. We have not received a formal response to our proposal," she told a throng of reporters at around 2 p.m.

    But CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey explained there were several small groups of people meeting on various issues and suggested that various people have been coming and going throughout the talks.

    Rev. Jesse Jackson paid the parties a visit in hopes of promoting cooperation but said he left disappointed.

    "They should be meeting around the clock," he said. "The sense of urgency within the room does not comply with the sense of urgency within the streets."

    School board officials late Tuesday night presented to the union a new offer that includes concessions on recalls and evaluations, as well as on sick days, a health care rate freeze and seniority.

    But by morning, Sharkey said the board's offer didn't go far enough and predicted the strike would go into a fourth day.

    Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz expressed confidence that significant progress could be made.

    "We believe we're not that far apart and should be able to wrap these things up," Ruiz said.

    Meanwhile, schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard made his first public appearance since Sunday, when the strike action was announced, and had to confront rumors that he'd either resigned or been fired.

    With the stalemate going to a fourth day, parents are reminded that the hours at the 147 strike-designated "Children First" sites are being extended beginning Thursday.

    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.