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Union chief: Teachers should prepare for strike

Karen Lewis President Chicago Teacher's Unimembers her negotiationg cabinet meet with mediCTU conference room Merchandise Mart announce major breakthrough contract

Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teacher's Union and members of her negotiationg cabinet meet with the media at the CTU conference room in the Merchandise Mart to announce a major breakthrough in contract negotiations with the Chicago Public School, Tuesday, July 24, 2012. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 11, 2012 1:40PM

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis rattled the bargaining sabers Thursday, saying so many big issues remain on the negotiating table that teachers need to be prepared for a September strike.

Lewis said there was “no chance’’ the teachers contract that expired June 30 will be resolved by Monday, when classes begin for about a third of the system on year-round school calendars.

After concluding their 41st day of contract talks Thursday, Chicago Public School and CTU negotiators “haven’t even gotten to compensation yet,’’ Lewis said.

“We haven’t gotten to the big sticking points because we’re trying to get the little ones off the table,’’ Lewis said. “I see slow progress.’’

Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard told reporters Thursday that negotiators were “making decent progress and I’m still hopeful and optimistic.’’

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the district was “pleased with the tone and encouraged by the progress being made.”

The CPS comments came after the CTU issued a news release, warning that teachers were still concerned about a new evaluation system that will link teacher ratings to student test results, job security, health benefits, pay and wrap-around services for students severely affected by poverty and violence.

“CTU members continue to prepare for a work stoppage in September when most of them are required to return to the classroom,’’ the news release warned.

“We need to have our people prepared,’’ Lewis said later in explaining the news release. “I don’t have any idea about what’s going to happen, but I know it’s ridiculous to sit back and pretend that everything is going to be settled and then scramble at the last minute when it’s not.’’

Under the law, the earliest teachers could strike would be Aug. 18, but first the union’s House of Delegates must set a strike date and the union must give CPS a 10-day heads-up of its intent to strike. School starts for most CPS students on Sept. 4, the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Lewis said the classes that start Monday in 243 CPS year-round schools will be a test drive of an 11th-hour interim deal that gives hundreds of laid-off teachers a crack at teaching jobs and keeps the typical teacher workday at about the same length. Those teachers will be working on an expired contract.

Kids, meanwhile, will get the longer school day promised by Mayor Rahm Emanuel — of seven hours.

Year-round principals only have one week to hire from a new pool of laid-off teachers before classes begin.

Lewis warned that “lots of things weren’t covered’’ in the interim deal and “we’re going to watch and see how it plays out because that will help inform our final agreement.’’

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick

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