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Chicago teachers to vote on strike authorization this month

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Graduation rate in Chicago Public Schools now at 73 percent

During a Tuesday press conference at Burke Elementary, Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised CPS' commitment to offering students a comprehensive education that incorporates the arts, but failed to comment on a potential CTU strike.

Chicago Teachers Union members will vote September 21-23 to authorize a strike, union officials said Wednesday evening after delegates met. "We will be able to give a 10-day notice when we can, and when it's necessary", she said. A strike could happen as early as October if an agreement could not be reached. "There's never any good time to strike".

Chicago Teachers Union leadership announced Wednesday they will ask teachers for a second time whether they are willing to strike this year, if efforts to ink a contract with city officials fail.

There's likely enough support. The union already voted on a strike authorization in the spring, but union officials said a second vote would cover them legally to strike this fall. The two sides are split over teacher compensation, including the future of the district's longstanding practice of picking up the bulk of teacher's required pension contributions.

"Be prepared as much as you can", said Alison Eichhorn, member of the union's big bargaining team.

Lewis declined to discuss the latest details, citing ongoing meetings.

A teacher delegate from the Nettlehorst School, Michelle Gunderson, said she has 27 students in her classroom.

"A strike can be averted, and CPS will work tirelessly to make sure children's education and progress is not interrupted", spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in an email. Lewis is calling on CPS to come up with more revenue via such things as a corporate head tax or diverting more Tax Increment Financing funds, known as TIFs, to schools. That follows a report released Monday in which the district touted an improvement in the five-year graduation rate to 73.5 percent.

Teachers staged a one-day walkout in April to protest proposals they said would cut compensation and to highlight state budget problems.

Instead, the district has argued before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board that the CTU could not vote on a strike until negotiations completed a final stage known as "fact finding". The union remained among Emanuel's harshest critics, particularly as he pushed the closure of dozens of schools the following year.

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