Thousands of teachers from Chicago and beyond rallied at a
Parents can expect to wait until Sunday afternoon or later to find out whether their children will return to class Monday morning after missing a week of school because of the
While attorneys talked terms in private, the Saturday afternoon rally was filled with symbolism. Out-of-state teachers traveled to Union Park in solidarity with a city teachers union that has attracted national attention as organized labor looks for lessons in a fight with cash-strapped government.
Representatives from teachers unions in Wisconsin and Minnesota spoke, as did the Rev.
"I remember in Baltimore, we had a 95 percent strike, but it didn't look like this," Johnson said, referencing the 90 percent support Chicago's strike vote got. "You have proven to the world that you're not going to take it anymore.
"The challenge was to stand up for the children, and you have done that."
Union officials on Friday hoped for as many as 50,000 to show their support Saturday. Instead, a crowd that police put at 2,500 jammed into a corner of the park to chant, shout and march in support of a strike they say is about securing the best learning conditions for students. The smaller turnout was perhaps indicative that the union's agreement to a framework with the district -- paired with a long week of picketing -- left many teachers deciding to stay home.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis kept the rhetorical pressure on, however, seeking to avoid losing leverage as details are hammered out.
Lewis energized the crowd by saying she wanted the air conditioning turned off at CPS headquarters and
Then Lewis offered a warning in advance of an anticipated House of Delegates vote Sunday in which members could opt to end to the strike and start a process to approve a contract.
"A woman came up to me and said she got a text from her principal telling her faculty to report to work tomorrow and Monday to prepare their rooms, and what I want to tell you is, we're still on strike," Lewis said as the crowd cheered.
"We have the framework for an agreement. We don't have an agreement. So, until you hear it from CTU ..."
"It's not true!" teachers shouted back.
The atmosphere resembled that of a street festival, with families and friends posing for photos and a marching band parading through the park.
Before speakers took the stage, Paul Mulchrone, a music teacher at Carter Elementary in the Washington Park neighborhood, sat on a blanket under a tree with his three children.
"We're striking for a fair contract, but we're also using this strike to send a message," said Mulchrone, who added that he had been picketing and knocking on doors in his school's neighborhood all week. "If you want us to improve test scores or however you measure it, then we need the resources and we need (the city) to invest in the schools."
The Chicago rally came a day after a Wisconsin judge struck down nearly all of a law pushed by Republican Gov.
"Greetings of solidarity from Wisconsin, from the state where teachers led the fight against Gov. Walker to the city where teachers are standing firm against Rahm Emanuel!" Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, shouted from the stage. "Walker and Emanuel are two sides of the same pro-corporate, pro-privatization agenda."
Afterward, some of those in attendance marched a little more than two miles west to Garfield Park.
On Sunday, union leaders have the task of selling the deal to members, many of whom have rallied for months over double-digit salary increases for working a longer school day and getting better school conditions.
Lewis upset some delegates Friday by declining to share details of the contract framework. Late Saturday, the union issued a news release that spelled out some of them.
The union says it will be a three-year contract, with an option for a fourth year that both the district and union would have to agree to. There would be a 3 percent raises in years one and four, and 2 percent raises in years two and three, according to the union.
So-called step and lane increases, raises given out for years of service and continuing education, would be preserved under the contract, according to the union.
The union also said it had come to an agreement on the sticky issues of teacher recall when schools close and performance reviews. Standards for teacher evaluations that could lead to firings would be eased, and some higher-rated teachers could get a better shot at being recalled after layoffs, sources said.
The mayor did get the longer school day he fought so hard to achieve, though six of 181 days in school became half days during negotiations, sources said. And principals will still have significant power in hiring teachers, they added.
A vote to end the strike would cap a week of demonstrations that included pickets of schools across the city and outside the offices of aldermen who opposed the strike; rallies of thousands of teachers and supporters who encircled City Hall and brought Loop traffic nearly to a halt; and negotiating sessions that sometimes began one morning and extended into the wee hours of the next.
During the week, Emanuel was called a bully and a liar by teachers, Lewis was verbally reprimanded by district officials for describing negotiations as "silly," and pundits across the nation weighed in.
The strike drew widespread attention because it highlights prominent issues such as the changing status of teachers unions and efforts to reform public education. Politics also came into play: Emanuel is a former chief of staff to President
As all of that played out in public, negotiators were battling behind closed doors over raises, how teachers are evaluated and the process under which they could be rehired if they are laid off when schools close or consolidate.
What remains to be seen, even if the strike ends Sunday, is how the agreement affects future relations between the union and mayor as the board struggles to find ways to afford the new raises, faces a projected $1 billion deficit in the 2014 school year and contemplates scores of school closings.
Money can be saved over the long run by closing schools or enrolling more students in privately run charter schools, which generally operate at lower costs and often receive outside funding. The contract blueprint "doesn't limit the growth of charters, or the closure or consolidation of existing schools that will have to take place down the road," said Ald.
Tribune reporters Ryan Haggerty, Jennifer Delgado, Joel Hood, Kristen Mack and John Byrne contributed.