Chicago Sun-Times
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Teachers strike inevitable, powerful alderman warns

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Chicago's first teachers strike in 25 years is "inevitable" and parents had better be prepared for it, a powerful Chicago alderman warned Monday.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the City Council's Budget Committee, laid the blame squarely on Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

"They've already decided this is what they're going to do. I think they want to" strike, Austin said after an Il. Delegation breakfast hosted by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

"Karen Lewis, their president, says they want to. [She's essentially saying], `I'm gonna show you.' That's what she projects....They don't want to talk. They don't want to negotiate. Not them--her. I don't believe she wants to talk. That's unfair to our children because education has to be more important than you getting an additional two percent."

Austin advised parents whose children attend Chicago Public Schools to make alternative plans for their kids.

"If you allow your child to fall behind because of the strike, it's your responsibility also," Austin said.

"You need to have a contingency plan to either have a tutor, a mentor, a college student or someone who's through with school. You gotta put out a few dollars to make sure your child stays ahead."

Parents who can't afford it can rely on the $25 million contingency plan that would keep 145 schools open for four hours-a-day during the strike, Austin said.

But, even the most elaborate contingency plans will not prevent more teenagers from being on the street during the strike and that could translate into rising crime, the alderman warned.

"My fear is that the kids who don't have [something else to do]--they'll be idle. That will leave them subject to get into a little mischief. That's what I'm afraid of," Austin said.

"My[greatest] fear in that is burglaries. I don't want that to get on an uprise because now, we've got kids with more time to do mischief things."

Barring an 11th-hour agreement, Chicago teachers are scheduled to walk off the job on Monday for the first time since 1987.

They authorized a strike by a 90 percent vote fueled by their anger against a mayor who stripped them of a previously-negotiated, four percent pay raise and tried to rush implementation of his signature plan for a longer school day and school year without consulting teachers about what that longer day should look like.


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