Herbert Dyer, Jr.

The Chicago Sun-Times and nbcchicago.com are reporting that the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago School Board have failed to reach a new contract agreement. “We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike,” said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. This comes after marathon sessions were held between the two sides over the weekend. As things stand now, a teachers’ strike can be begin at midnight tonight. (9/10/12)

Confirming Lewis’ position, School Board President David Vitale said, “We assume we’re basically done for today,” and that “…more than likely, they (parents) are going to have to take care of their kids tomorrow.”

Lewis spoke from the CTU’s headquarters in downtown Chicago where talks with the Board had been ongoing since 11:00 a.m. today (Sunday).

According to the Sun-Times, the House of Delegates of the CTU must meet and vote to either call off the strike or approve a contract. Adam Henan, a delegate, indicated that no such meeting was scheduled for Sunday, although delegates have been told to “stay up late” just in case. “If I get the call, I’m going,” he said.

Another CTU delegate (unnamed) and social studies teacher said, “It could be two or three a.m.. I’ll get up and go. My alarm is very, very loud.”

Otherwise, this teacher plans to go to his school tomorrow morning. “Our instructions are to show up at our school to either teach or picket. I’ll be there at 6:30 a.m.”

Delegate Sue Garza declared that the teachers are “together 150,000 percent.” “As far as I know,” she added, “it’s a go. I’ll be watching the press conference,”

The Sun-Times reported that, although the School Board earlier in the day claimed to have presented the union with “dramatically” new and better proposals, Lewis said that she still had “problems” with their offer. That is not surprising. Her “problems” stem basically from the Board’s proposed teachers’ pay package. “We do have some issues there,” she said.

Lewis went further, though. She was not pleased, apparently, with the whole process. “On the pay issue we’ve had some progress as of yesterday for the first time, and it’s sort of annoying that we have to wait for the eleventh hour to get these kinds of issues done.” Lewis made this statement to a CNN interviewer this morning.

And, at last, and at the behest of the Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, the city itself got involved as well. Some 33 of the 50 alderman sent a letter to Lewis asking her to “allow teachers to stay in the classroom” while negotiations continue, even if no agreement is reached today/tonight.

Naturally, Lewis dismissed the aldermen’s overture out of hand, indicating basically that their concern was too little and too late. “It would be nice if aldermen did not wait until the last minute to talk to us,” she said Saturday. “The aldermen have been sitting on the sidelines for the last 2½ years, while all our rights have been taken away from us.’’

Other issues on the table and which have presumably not been resolved are cost of living raises; additional pay for experience; job security (tenure); the shuffling of staffers; and a new teacher evaluation process based almost solely on student test scores.

Again, on the pay front, the union also argues that the two percent raises offered over the next four years by the Board simply does not cut the mustard. It does not, in fact, even match the four percent raise they were forced to forego this year. Also the school year and day have both been lengthened, featuring a new and “harder” curriculum.

And then there is the matter of general working conditions: CTU wants smaller class sizes, more libraries, air-conditioning, and more social workers and counselors. This last item is particularly important to the teachers because of the exploding levels of violence in and around public schools. (And, on the air-conditioning front, I am sure some of the union members explained to the Board that Chicago – like the rest of the country – has just experienced its hottest summer on record. And, that if there is any merit to “global warming” at all, this is just the beginning of more "long, hot summers." Indeed, most Chicago public schools do not have air-conditioning).

The School Board, on the other hand, argues that it has been more than “fair” in the negotiations and that their latest contract does include teacher raises. They are limited, however, by a possible $1 billion deficit at the end of this school year.

All day today, teachers have been driving, busing, taking the train, or walking to the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters to pick up picket signs and T-shirts.

Parents and students are taking a wait-and-see approach. One parent, Tracy Baldwin, who has a 6-year-old at Coonley School, was present at the CTU headquarters. Baldwin, told the Sun-Times that she thinks parents have already accepted the strike as inevitable. But if the strike goes on for more than a few days, all bets are off.

“I think it’s going to divide our city,” she said, “and it’s going to get ugly.”

THIS JUST IN: Chicago Teachers have voted to strike effective immediately. (11:05 p.m.)