Students in Chicago returned to the classroom on Wednesday, which was less than one day after teachers ended their strike of seven days. Delegates for the union voted on Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after they looked over a contract settlement proposal. Chicago has the third-largest school district in the country. The delegates said that the concessions were enough to settle and they included new teacher evaluations, classroom conditions and recall rights for teachers who have been laid-off.
There still needs to be a vote of the 26,000 support staff and teachers in the union to approve the contract. The district houses over 350,000 students. A court order was requested by Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel that would have forced the teachers to return to the classroom.
“This is an exciting day for the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said. “I’m excited that the kids are back doing the most important thing, learning in the classroom.” Emanuel also said that the contract includes a longer day in school for students and that principals have the right to hire any teacher they so choose. The taxpayers will benefit from the new contract as well. The new contract will $30 million less than the contract that ended in June.
“We said that we couldn’t solve all the problems of the world with one contract, and it was time to end the strike,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.
Teachers in Chicago are paid an average annual salary of $76,000, which is one of the highest in the country. The final proposal submitted by the district had an average 7 percent raise over a period of three years. There are also raises for education and experience in that proposal. The biggest issues that caused the strike were teacher evaluations and job security measures. The union claimed that the evaluations relied heavily on test scores and that they did not account for outside factors such as violence and poverty.