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Chicago Teachers Union Votes To Approve Strike

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We could be two weeks and a day away from a Chicago Public Schools strike, keeping nearly 380,000 kids out of the classroom.

Chicago Public Schools teachers have voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike, and could walk off the job as early as Oct. 11, the Chicago Teachers Union announced Monday.

Over a three-day voting period last week, more than 90 percent of CTU members cast ballots--some 27,000 members--and 95.6 percent voted in favor of a strike, the union said. That's higher than the 88 percent who authorized a one-day strike in April.

Union leader Jim Cavallero attributes the increase to teacher frustration.

"I think the message is very clear, like in 2012. We want a fair contract and we are willing to push it to the point where if we have to go on strike to get that," Cavallero says.

"This should come as no surprise to the Board, the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers' aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions," the union said in a written statement.

The union's governing body will meet Wednesday in a special session to determine the next steps, including possibly issuing a 10-day strike notice to the Chicago Board of Education. If the union does so, the earliest teachers could go on strike would be Oct. 11.

CPS responds saying, "A strike is a very serious step that affects the lives of thousands of parents and children, and we hope that before taking the final steps toward a strike, the CTU's leadership works hard at the bargaining table to reach a fair deal."

Teachers have gone without a contract since June 2015. Last December, teachers voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike, and in April staged a one-day walkout, but opted against a prolonged strike at the end of the school year.

Before moving forward with an open-ended strike, the union decided to hold another strike vote last week.

At the beginning of the school year, CPS and CTU officials said both sides have continued to meet, but neither the district nor the union seemed optimistic about reaching a deal anytime soon.

"There's movement but not, no progress," Cavallero, who's a member of the union's bargaining team, says.

Amanda Atkins, a CPS parent says, "If they have to strike to get their needs met, then I support it, ultimately. But it's unfortunate, I think, that it has to go to that extreme."

The last extended teachers' strike at CPS was in 2012, when teachers walked off the job for seven school days at the start of the school year.

The union's house of delegates will meet later this week to discuss the union's next steps.

Meanwhile, the CPS board released bad news: enrolment is down 14,000 students. School officials say that could lead to more cuts. Three hundred teachers and support staff could get lay-off slips on Oct. 3.

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