CHICAGO — Chicago teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer decided Sunday to remain on strike, insisting they first wanted to consult with their full membership before deciding whether to end an acrimonious standoff with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that will keep 350,000 students out of class for at least two more days.
Emanuel fired back Sunday night by instructing city attorneys to seek a court order forcing Chicago Teachers Union members back into the classroom. "This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children," he said in a statement.
Meeting a week after the start of the city's first teachers strike in 25 years, the union's 800-member House of Delegates didn't hold a planned formal vote on whether to suspend the strike. They had received a summary of a proposed settlement worked out over the weekend with officials from the nation's third largest school district.
Presented with a choice on whether to ask members to vote on a contract that union president Karen Lewis had at one point called "a fight for the very soul of public education," the union's members told their leaders they needed more time to talk to the rank and file. The contract would base teacher evaluations in part on how well students succeed and whether laid-off teachers would have first chance at open jobs in the district.
The union will meet again Tuesday, after the end of the Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
"We felt more comfortable being able to take back what's on the table and let our constituents look at it and digest it," said Dean Refakes, a physical education teacher at Gompers Elementary School.
That timeline, however, means the soonest classes could resume would be Wednesday. That frustrated both Emanuel and some parents, who learned late at night a week ago Sunday that a flurry of last-minute negotiations had failed to produce a contract agreement and that the strike was on.