The country's third largest school system is out of action for a third day as the teachers' strike in Chicago continues, with both sides disagreeing on how close they are to negotiating a settlement. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
By NBCChicago.com's Michelle Relerford, Kim Vatis and Mary Ann Ahern and NBC News staff
As teachers walked picket lines for the third day Wednesday, the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union predicted the strike won't be resolved today.
Jesse Sharkey told reporters the school board's latest proposal isn't much different than the previous proposal and mostly just moved things around. Sharkey said the union will provide a written response but said he's more concerned with the tone of things now.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and school officials said only a couple key issues remain to be settled, but union representatives said there are 43 left to tackle. Following an intense day of negotiations, Chicago's school board president said Tuesday night he wants a response to the new offer presented to the union that includes concessions on recalls and evaluations.
"When we receive a written response for our written proposal, we will sit down and meet with them," David Vitale told reporters.
As of Wednesday morning, teachers hadn't responded, but Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the board's offer would be reviewed.
"I'm not exactly sure if I would consider it an ultimatum, but we will look at it. We will study it," she said. "But we just got it so it's going to take a little while to have a conversation about it."
Sitthixay Ditthavong / AP
Public school teachers cheer as Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, unseen, arrives unexpectedly to address a rally of thousands of teachers outside the Chicago Board of Education district headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.
Talks are scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. Wednesday, and the union plans to meet beforehand to discuss the proposal.
When asked what it hopes to accomplish Wednesday, Chicago Board of Education vice president Jesse Ruiz told NBC Chicago the group wants to make progress on remaining issues, however many there may be.
"We believe we're not that far apart and should be able to wrap these things up," Ruiz said.
Both sides admit some progress was made. The board agreed to the teachers' proposal on sick days, a health care rate freeze and seniority. They still haven't come to terms on a new teacher evaluation system, and Lewis said they remain "miles apart."
Chicago’s school leaders are proposing that student performance on standardized tests count toward 25 percent of a teacher’s assessment, growing to 40 percent in five years.
But Lewis is critical of Emanuel’s push to make great use of standardized tests in teacher reviews, calling the process flawed. Union officials say the system wouldn’t do enough to take into account outside factors such as poverty, crime and homelessness.
"Evaluate us on what we do, not the lives of our children we do not control," Lewis said in announcing the strike. It was unclear what union officials proposed instead.
"This is far more than a labor struggle," American Teachers Federation President Randi Weingarten said during a big rally downtown -- the second massive protest this week. "This is a struggle for the heart and the soul of public education for the kids of Chicago."
In response to one potential next step being weighed by Emanuel and city leaders -- an injunction requiring teachers to get back to work -- Lewis said the mayor doesn't have the legal standing.
"We have a completely legal work stoppage, we have followed every rule," she said.
Meanwhile, student attendance at the 147 strike-designated schools and safe haven sites was reportedly low for the second day. At a South Side YMCA, the site saw just 35 kids Monday and Tuesday, lower than expected.
More content from NBCNews.com:
- Evidence shows White House got many pre-9/11 warnings
- FAO: VA struggles to calculate lost wages for wounded vets
- Key question in Chicago strike: How do you measure a teacher?
- Professor in Ala. university shooting rampage pleads guilty
- Jailbird ex-cops talk about Drew Peterson's fate in prison
- Video: New footage released of Sikh temple shooting
- Cops: Woman kills husband, mistaking him for intruder