Chicago’s teachers agreed Tuesday to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over teacher evaluations and job security, two issues at the heart of efforts to reform the nation’s public schools.
Union delegates voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike after discussing a proposed contract settlement that had been on the table for days. Classes were to resume Wednesday.
Jubilant delegates poured out of a South Side union hall singing “solidarity forever,” cheering, honking horns and yelling, “We’re going back.”
Most were eager to get to work and proud of a walkout that yielded results.
“I’m very excited. I miss my students. I’m relieved because I think this contract was better than what they offered,” said America Olmedo, who teaches fourth- and fifth-grade bilingual classes. “They tried to take everything away.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the settlement “an honest compromise” that “means a new day and a new direction for the Chicago public schools.”
“In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less, and our kids are getting more,” the mayor said, referring to provisions in the deal that he says will cut costs.
The walkout, the first in Chicago in 25 years, shut down the nation’s third-largest school district just days after 350,000 students had returned from summer vacation. Tens of thousands of parents were forced to find alternatives for idle children, including many whose neighborhoods have been wracked by gang violence in recent months.
Union President Karen Lewis said the union’s 700-plus delegates voted 98 percent to 2 percent to reopen the schools.
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