Contract negotiations have collapsed, and Chicago teachers are expected to walk out this morning for the first time in 25 years. "We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced last night. "This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could avoid." The action will affect some 350,000 students in the third-largest school district in the nation just as the school year has barely begun. Union representatives met all day yesterday with school board officials in a failed bid to hammer out a contract, reports the Chicago Tribune.
“We do not want a strike,” said Board of Education president David Vitale as he left the negotiations, which he described as “perhaps the most unbelievable process that I’ve ever been through," reports the New York Times. Sticking points include raises, a recall policy for laid-off teachers, and a process for implementing a state-mandated teacher evaluation system. Union representatives rejected the district's last known offer of 2% pay hikes each year for four years, saying teachers deserve more because of a new, longer school day. Teachers make on average $71,000 a year, according to the Tribune.