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Chicago Classrooms Are Empty For A Second Day

Striking teachers in Chicago manned the picket lines for a second day today as parents again scrambled to occupy their stay-at-home kids.

Some 350,000 of the district's students are locked out of their classrooms because city officials and thousands of teachers represented by the Chicago Teachers Union have yet to reach a contract. The strike is the first by public school teachers in the Chicago in 25 years.

The main sticking points are over teacher evaluations and a recall policy. The district has offered the teachers a 16 percent pay raise spread out over four years, beginning with 2 percent the first year.

The Chicago Tribune reports that School Board President David Vitale left talks a little after 6:30 p.m. yesterday, saying the two sides were going over technical issues and that he was hopeful the key issues could be surmounted soon.

"We believe we should resolve this tomorrow. We are close enough to get this resolved," he said. "This is hard work."

However, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who left the negotiations about three hours later, according to the Tribune, expressed surprise at Vitale's remark that a deal was that close.

Tim Knowles, head of the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute. Knowles says tying teacher pay to student test scores, as well as job security, longer school days and expanding charter schools, are issues that teachers are struggling with across the country. But he tells NPR's Tovia Smith that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former chief of staff in the Obama administration, has come head-to-head with a particularly tough teachers union.

"There is aggressive reform effort and there's a concerted resistance to reforms being put on the table," Knowles says. "I think it's the New Democrats versus Old Labor."

Emanuel has said teacher evaluations would not be binding in the first year, but that's little comfort to teachers who fear they might lose their jobs over the new policy, Smith reports.

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