EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

September 16, 2012

Striking teachers rally as deal talks continue

CHICAGO (AP) — Thousands of striking Chicago public school teachers and their allies packed a city park yesterday in a boisterous show of force as union leaders and the district tried to work out the details of an agreement that could end a week-long walkout.

Pushing strollers, toting signs and towing wagons of children, thousands of red-shirted teachers cheered and chanted as speaker after speaker urged them to stand firm until they have a deal in writing. They told the teachers that their strike was a symbol of hope for public teachers and other unions that have been losing ground around the nation.

“I’m pretty confident that something will come together that both sides will agree on,” said Ramses James, a sixth-grade math teacher. “I believe this is a very strong turning point when you have so many people coming out to fight alongside (the teachers union). That means a lot.”

Months of contract negotiations came down to two main issues: job security and union opposition to a new teacher evaluation process the union felt was too heavily weighted on student test scores.

Union leaders who announced a framework for a deal on Friday said they would not end the strike — the first in Chicago in 25 years — until they see a proposal in writing. Yesterday’s talks were aimed at settling on the exact language, and both sides were hopeful that the nearly 800-member House of Delegates could vote today to suspend the strike so children could be back in class on Monday.

Addressing demonstrators yesterday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis cautioned that “we are on strike” and that classes won’t resume until the delegates see an agreement they can support.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson also addressed the crowd, saying the strike was a “struggle for working people everywhere” and that there was still a long road to ensuring all residents of the city have equal access to quality schools, especially in neighborhoods beset by gang violence and poverty.

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