A total of 97 percent of Chicago public school teachers, who are negotiating a new contract amid severe statewide budget troubles, said they are prepared to strike if necessary, according to media reports on Monday, citing a union official.
The purpose of last Thursday’s “practice” vote in the nation’s third-largest city was to test the process of collecting the vote and teacher sentiment as negotiations with school officials continue, the union said. The results of the vote were released on Monday.
The district, which serves about 400,000 students at more than 600 schools, faces a $1.1 billion structural deficit and thousands of possible teacher layoffs after Christmas.
A spokeswoman for the union was not immediately available for comment on the vote.
Under state law, at least 75 percent of union members must approve a strike. Union vice president Jesse Sharkey said last week it was too early to say when and if the teachers would strike, but they needed to be prepared.
The school system’s former chief executive, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty last month to a fraud charge related to the awarding of a no-bid contract to her former employer, infuriating parents and teachers who had already seen budget cutbacks.
The Chicago Public Schools’ recently approved $5.7 billion budget counts on $480 million in aid from the state of Illinois it has not received. If the money does not come, thousands of teachers could be laid off.
The last strike was in 2012, the district’s first in 25 years.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Sam Holmes)