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Classes Canceled For 300,000 Students As Chicago's Public Teachers Prepare To Strike


Chicago teachers are walking. The Chicago Teachers Union will go on strike. Teachers will be on the picket lines outside schools tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, 300,000 students won't be in those schools. Joining me on the line is Sarah Karp of member station WBEZ.

And Sarah, what's the reason behind this strike?

SARAH KARP, BYLINE: Well, there's one big reason. And that's that the Chicago teachers have really been pushing for what you would call learning condition improvement. So they really want lower class sizes. They want to be able to have enforceable class sizes. They want more social workers, counselors, librarians and other staff in the school. And up until just a few days ago, the mayor, who controls the school district here, was unwilling to make promises in their contract for those things. And so they say that even though they've made some progress toward getting some of the things that they want, they say it's not enough and that that's why they're walking tonight.

CORNISH: Not enough - can you give us a sense of how far apart the two sides are?

KARP: I think that they're pretty far apart. Tonight, the president of the teachers union said, we have a ways to go. And what I've heard from the school district is that they don't think that they can meet the teachers where they - where the teachers want them to be. And they really need the teachers to sort of come down on their demands. But the teachers are not willing to come down on their demands, so it's really some distance apart at this point.

CORNISH: In the meantime, we mentioned all of these kids won't be in class. What are you hearing from parents?

KARP: Parents are really behind the teachers. A lot of parents say that we really support the teachers because they really feel like kids need the things that the teachers are fighting for. However, parents are sort of freaking out because they don't really know exactly where to take their kids. The libraries will be open. Schools will also be open with administrative staff and non-union members in the schools. There's also a lot of, you know, pop-up day camps. And some parents are saying, I'm opening my house. Bring your kids over here. But it's really - you know, people are just sort of juggling how they can make their work continue and find somewhere for their children. But I do think there is a sense in the city from a lot of parents that it's worth the sacrifice if some of these things that the teachers are fighting for could be won.

CORNISH: That's Sarah Karp of member station WBEZ. Thanks for your reporting.

KARP: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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