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Chicago teachers strike to drag into a 3rd day

CHICAGO -- A strike of Chicago teachers that has closed the nation's third-largest school district will drag into Wednesday after unionized teachers and negotiators for Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to reach an agreement in the biggest labor dispute in the United States in a year.

Negotiations adjourned late on Tuesday with both sides saying they had made progress but had not secured a deal to get 29,000 teachers and support staff back in inner-city schools.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday at a school where children affected by the strike were being supervised, Emanuel repeated that the two issues in dispute were how to evaluate teachers and more authority for school principals.

Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis, who has clashed with Emanuel, differed on the state of the talks. She said only six of nearly 50 union contract provisions had been agreed.

Emanuel, who resigned as President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff to run for Chicago mayor in 2011, has shown no sign of backing down in the confrontation.

The mayor's chief negotiator, David Vitale, criticized the teachers as the talks recessed on Tuesday. “This is not the behavior of a group of people who are serious about helping our children,” Vitale said.

Other Chicago unions closed ranks behind Lewis and the teachers. Randi Weingarten, the national president of the union representing Chicago teachers, appeared at a press conference flanked by local union representatives from nurses, janitors, transit workers and police officers to pledge support.

The union representing janitors said that if the strike is not settled within 48 hours, some janitors would stop crossing picket lines to clean schools where children are supervised.

A poll taken on Monday showed 47 percent of Chicago registered voters supported the union while 39 percent oppose the strike and 14 percent did not know. The poll by McKeon and Associates of 500 Chicago registered voters, has a margin of error of 3.8 percent, and was reported in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Patience Tested

With no sign of an early end to the strike, the patience of parents was tested as they juggled child care and work.

Many parents stayed home from work with their children on the first day of a strike affecting some 350,000 children.

Chicago school officials said only about 18,000 students took part in a half day of supervision on Monday at 144 public schools, where kids received breakfast and lunch.

One complaint from parents was that the centers closed at 12:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the school district announced that they would be staying open until 2:30 p.m. in future.

At New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church in the violence-ridden East Garfield Park neighborhood, 26 children showed up on Tuesday compared with 14 on the first day of the strike.

Some parents decided to bring children to the church rather than schools, where striking teachers were picketing, said Ticina Cutler, 32, who has three sons in Chicago Public Schools. “I don't want to cross any picket lines,” she said.

The strike has forced the cancellation of all public school-related extracurricular activities such as sports and the arts. It has not affected about 52,000 students at publicly funded, non-union charter schools attending classes as usual.

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Thousands of public school teachers march for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in downtown Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP)

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