by Sari Zeidler, CNN
(CNN) Amid blaring horns and intermittent chants, Chicago Public School teacher Xian Barrett called CNN from the picket lines Monday morning.
“I’m a union activist, but most of us are these days,” said Barrett, who teaches law in American society and Chicago history at Chicago’s Gage Park High School.
“At the height, we’ve got about 50 students and our entire staff of about 70 – it’s more like 80 – staffers, teachers, clerks, assistant teachers. And we had a rally, we had a singalong, we picketed the entrances,” he said describing the first morning of a strike that left about 350,000 Chicago students without school today.
Surrounded by supportive staff and students, Barrett explained that in the afternoon union buses and buses furnished by community organizations would come to gather Gage Park supporters and transport them to downtown Chicago, where they expected to join a larger crowd there to support the union that represents nearly 30,000 teachers and support staff.
My View: The whole world is watching Chicago, once again
"It shows the power of what happens when unions work with students and families directly," Barrett said.
But parents might not stay supportive for long.
(CNN) Chicago public school teachers began manning picket lines instead of classrooms Monday, launching the first teacher strike in the city in 25 years.
The strike, announced Sunday night, left about 350,000 students without schools to attend and parents scrambling to find alternatives. The union that represents nearly 30,000 teachers and support staff in the nation's third-largest school district called the strike after negotiators failed to reach a contract agreement with school administrators despite 10 months of negotiations.
Below, we break down the key issues that are keeping the teachers out of the classroom, what the teachers are asking for and what the schools are willing to offer.
Compensation and health care benefits
One of the key issues is salaries and benefits for teachers and their families.
What the teachers want: to maintain their existing health benefits, as well as salary increases.
"Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation," the Chicago Teachers Union said in a news release. "However, we are apart on benefits."
By Michael Pearson and Holly Yan, CNN
Chicago parents: What are you doing to keep your kids busy? Share your story with CNN iReport.
(CNN)– There will be no contract deal Monday night between Chicago public school officials and the city's teacher's union, city school board President David Vitale said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's spokeswoman, Sarah Hamilton, said talks were continuing late Monday, though Vitale said by then that he'd left the negotiating session for the night.
"We said to them again, 'We should resolve this tomorrow, we are close enough,'" Vitale said. "This is hard work. We want to get this resolved. We want our kids back in school."
The failure to produce a breakthrough comes a day after the Chicago Teacher's Union called a strike as school officials said they had nothing more to offer. The union has not stated, as of late Monday night, if the city's first teachers strike in 25 years will continue into a second day Tuesday in the absence of a deal.
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