CPS Working Hard to Avoid Strike: Brizard

Will Chicago students have a school to attend in the fall?

That's a question on a lot of parents' minds after public school teachers overwhelmingly authorized a strike, and CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard said Tuesday he's working hard to keep school on schedule and avoid a strike.

"The last thing we need right now is a strike," Brizard said, "so we're doing everything possible to prevent one."

Nearly 90 percent of Chicago Teachers Union-represented teachers voted last week to move forward with a strike if the union decides to do so.

CPS and CTU are currently in contract negotiations, but union leaders say talks are far apart when it comes to teacher pay and how teachers will be compensated for longer school days.

"We have a lot of support," said CTU President Karen Lewis. "We are not looking to alienate people, we're looking to bring people to understand what's really going on, and parents want this world-class education that they've been promised."

Brizard said that's what CPS wants too. Pointing to this year's highest-ever graduation rate, he noted the district has made progress but still has much to do. A strike would impede that progress, he said.

"We're working very hard to avoid a strike. Our kids can't afford it. ... We can't afford a 29 percent increase in salary. Somewhere in there is the right number. We're going to come to that resolution."

Brizard said he's disappointed the union didn't hold their vote until an independent arbitrator returns its review.

Lewis said the arbitrator will only deal with four or five issues when the contract deals with a host of them. The report also returns in July, she argues, when many teachers are on summer break.

Brizard said teachers didn't have all the information, that they were given two choices: strike or nothing. As for any plans to challenge the vote, Brizard said right not the district is looking to move forward and come to a resolution.

"We have to allow the process to continue," he said.

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