Back to school in Chicago

Chicago teachers have voted to suspend their strike and will return to school this morning. The full contract won’t be revealed until after the membership ratifies it:

The vote, with 98 percent in support of suspension, was not a final vote on the union contract but rather an agreement to suspend the strike pending a final vote on the agreement hammered out between Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago school board and the teacher’s union over the weekend.

What remains unclear is which side, if either, emerges from the walkout victorious.

With details of the contract yet to be revealed, we have little to go on beyond the statement of Chicago Teacher’s Union president Karen Lewis who noted, “We said that we couldn’t solve all the problems of the world with one contract and it was time to end the strike.”

Lewis’ remark would suggest that the union failed to get everything it hoped to achieve.

Bilingual elementary school language teacher America Olmeda added, “I think this contract was better than what they offered. They tried to take everything away.”

Also unknown is the impact the hearing set for tomorrow in a Chicago courtroom had on the teachers’ decision to go back to their classrooms. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had brought the court action in reliance on a state law that prohibits teacher walkouts when they are “strikes of choice” rather than a strike designed to address an economic issue.

While it appears that the parties had agreed on a 16 percent hike in salaries over the next four years, the strike was called over the failure of the parties to come to terms on how teacher performance is to be evaluated along with disagreement over union’s demand that teachers who have been laid-off get the first crack at open positions.

Teachers aren’t completely happy with the offer, according to the Chicago Tribune:

The voice vote was taken after some 800 delegates convened at a union meeting hall near Chinatown to discuss and debate a tentative contract. Union leaders had already signed off on the agreement with Chicago Public Schools.

“We said we couldn’t solve all the problems. . .and it was time to suspend the strike,” CTU President Karen Lewis said at a news conference after the vote.

“The issue is, we cannot get a perfect contract. There’s no such thing as a contract that will make all of us” happy, Lewis said.

But “do we stay on strike forever until every little thing we want can be gotten?” she said.

“I’m so thrilled that people are going back, all of our members are glad to be back with their kids. It’s a hard decision to make to go out, and for some people it’s hard to make the decision to go back in,” Lewis said.