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Parents’ summer break worry: Will strike delay school start?

Morgan MartWaters parent student Edgebrook School talks about coming school year Friday June 15 2012. | John H. White~Sun-Times

Morgan Martin Waters, parent of a student at Edgebrook School, talks about the coming school year, Friday, June 15, 2012. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 17, 2012 12:48PM

Thousands of kids burst out of Chicago schoolhouses to begin summer vacation Friday — leaving many of their parents to wonder if they will be returning on time when school is scheduled to begin this fall.

With nearly 90 percent of Chicago Teachers Union members voting recently to authorize their leadership to call a strike if needed, a cloud of uncertainty hung over the start of summer break.

Smiling students emerged Friday from Edgebrook School — among the 50 highest-scoring neighborhood public schools in the state — with their final report cards in hand Friday.

Two of them ran to working parent Theresa Davis, who has already put out feelers about employing kids from one of the district’s selective-enrollment high schools as baby-sitters if teachers go on strike.

Whether next school year will begin on time “is a huge worry,” said Davis, whose children will be entering first and second grade at Edgebrook.

“I’m expecting [teachers] to go on strike,” Davis said. “I tried listening to [CTU President] Karen Lewis and I can’t stand her. I think she will force a strike.”

Edgebrook parent Amy Keller said she, too, has to wonder what the new school year will bring. CTU leaders angered by an imposed longer day and a canceled 4 percent raise opened talks with a request for a 29 percent pay increase over two years. CPS officials, faced with an estimated deficit of up to $700 million, responded with guaranteed systemwide raises of a total of 2 percent over five years.

“I don’t like [Mayor] Rahm Emanuel ramming things down as dictum,” Keller said. “I am kind of worried because Karen Lewis and Rahm Emanuel are both strong-willed people. The tone of [the battle] is nasty. I don’t put it past either of them to go to that kind of duel.”

The CTU and district officials are locked in talks with a “fact-finder” due to issue recommendations July 16 on how to resolve a dispute over a contract that expires June 30.

Standing under the shade of an expansive Maple tree, Edgebrook parent David Kamba, a free-lance photographer, said it’s too early to start worrying.

But “if teachers have to strike, I support it. I don’t like the notion of kids not being in school, but I believe in the collective-bargaining process,” he said.

Edgebrook parent Kristen Cabanban was “shocked” at the near 90 percent vote to authorize a strike — a record high and well past the 75 percent margin demanded by a new law.

At Edgebrook, 100 percent of teachers turned out to vote, although Cabanban said Edgebrook is such an “idyllic island” she has to wonder, “Are [Edgebrook teachers] part of the 90 percent?”

“I’m really concerned about a strike. . . . I’m fearful about what it will do to the learning process,” Cabanban said. “I’m assumimg this will get resolved. I’m assuming everyone has the children’s best interests at heart. But I’m worried I’m putting too much faith in the negotiation process. There are a lot of tough issues to be resolved. . . . Everybody seems so dug in.”

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