With their patience growing increasingly thin, Chicago parents continue to grapple with child care issues and ways to keep their kids busy as the teachers
The work stoppage, which took place one week after most students started the new school year, now promises to keep families in limbo until at least Wednesday and leaves many in the lurch. Without offering an opinion on the specific sticking points, several parents voiced frustration with the educators' willingness to shutter schools amid the bitter contract battle.
"I'm not taking a side one way or another as to how it should be settled,"
During the strike's first week, Roseen's wife, Debbie, took care of their two children and a few others in the neighborhood whose families didn't have back-up plans. Though they weren't forced to scramble like some parents, the couple had hoped to spend Sunday night making sure their son and daughter were caught up on school work and in bed early.
That scenario seemed likely as union leaders gave the impression that the delegates' vote Sunday was a formality and both sides signaled that classes would resume Monday. The plan unraveled, however, when the delegates asked for more time to review the proposed agreement — a move which clearly frustrated parents who had been counting on the return to normalcy.
"My thought was that the teachers were going to make a statement and be out of class for a week and at the end of that week hopefully things would be resolved," Roseen said. "The fact that they are not going back to the classroom to me is unconscionable."
Humberto Ramirez doesn't necessarily oppose the teachers' demands, but he objects to his family becoming hostages in the labor battle.
"Our kids were being used as leverage. They realized they could put our lives on hold. They used us," Humberto Ramirez said. "I certainly don't begrudge any benefits or salaries the CTU has been able to negotiate, but (they) put so many people in a terrible inconvenience simply because they have this grand union agenda."
On the South Side, Tiffany Smith and her husband both have full-time jobs, so they depend upon their 17-year-old daughter to watch her two younger siblings while they're at work. Last week, the kids spent their days hanging out in the neighborhood and watching television.
"I need them to be at school, not at the house doing nothing, cause that's exactly what they're doing — nothing," Smith said.
Mirian Batrez spent the past week teaching her three children at home, using educational computer software to bolster their math and reading skills, or entertaining them with sports.
"They're going to be home playing more video games or watching TV. That's not that good," the North Side mother said. "They're supposed to be having their education at school."
Gerald House says there's no safer place for his five children to be during the day than in school. His wife has been taking some of their kids to work with her, while the others stay home with him on the South Side. The kids have gone to the local church a few times to break up the monotony, but they don't venture much farther than that, their father says.
"When they're at school, they're safe. That's the biggest worry," House said. "I understand what the teachers are saying. But this has been an ongoing thing. They knew this was coming. They should have had a better contingency plan."
Tribune reporter Stacy St. Clair contributed.