Chicago could be closing in on an end to its first teacher strike in 25 years.
All eyes are on the Chicago Teachers Union's roughly 800 delegates, scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. to discuss and further review the latest contract proposal solidified over the weekend.
A "yes" vote would send 350,000 students back to school as early as Wednesday. If they vote no, a judge on Wednesday morning will hear an injunction request from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's general counsel.
On the eve of the delegates' meeting, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union appeared calm, focused and cooperative. A decision to end the strike, however, is at the mercy of the democratic process, and Karen Lewis said she can't predict what delegates will do.
"I don't have a crystal ball. I've said that throughout this entire process," Lewis said Monday night. "I mean, the key to this is that this a democratic process. Our union is made up of people who sit down and have their own opinions and come to their own conclusions about where they want to be and what they expect."
Lewis said her constituents have been busy reviewing the document. There were no meetings or discussions Monday in observance of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which began at sunset on Sunday.
"We do know that people have had time to read what is available, and that is what is important," she said.
The CTU over the weekend released details of the contract on its website. The proposed contract includes the following:
- The CTU wants a three year contract, which guarantees a three percent increase the first year and a two percent increase for both the second and third year. It also includes the option to extend the contract for a fourth year with a three percent raise;
- CPS will move away from merit pay;
- The board will hire more than 600 additional "special" teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other classes;
- One half of all CPS hires must be displaced members;
- CPS will evaluate teachers based on 70 percent "teacher practice" and 30 percent "student growth." Additionally, the first year of implementation will not harm tenured teachers and there is a right to appeal the evaluations.
A faction within the union sees the proposal as a "back room deal" that doesn't have unified support, a source told NBC Chicago over the weekend.
"If the agreement is not good, if the members reject it and think it won't improve conditions in their schools and classrooms, then we want the board to listen to those concerns before we would go back to school," CTU chief of staff Jackson Potter told NBC Chicago Monday.
School board president David Vitale said Monday the two sides are done negotiating and CPS is waiting on the union.
"We've done as much as we know how to do," Vitale said. "We reached an agreement with their leadership, we think it's a good agreement. It's time for the teachers to get back in school."
Potter said it's worth the wait.
"People have to live for three years under the terms of this agreement, and so it has to be a good agreement, it has to reflect the concerns that we brought to the table all along."
Emanuel and Chicago Board of Education officials on Monday filed a request for an injunction to immediately end the strike. A Cook County Judge postponed a hearing on that request until Wednesday. By then, however, students could already be back in class.
Details of the tentative deal:
NBC Chicago has an array of reporters and producers covering the Chicago teacher strike. Check our live blog for continuous coverage and updates throughout the strike.