Jean-Claude Brizard

Chicago teachers begin voting tomorrow to authorize a strike. Why have relations between the CPS and the union deteriorated so badly? We hear from schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm.

As teachers ready for the strike authorization vote tomorrow, parents across the city are already getting hit with an ad asking them to oppose the timing of the vote, paid for by an education advocacy group.

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The ad criticizes the Chicago Teachers Union for taking its strike vote before an independent arbiter releases his salary recommendations for teachers, due by July 16. The union says it is holding the vote before teachers leave the city for the summer, and the vote will be a bargaining chip to spur negotiations. 

In the ad, two women discuss the teacher contract negotiations. The union plans to vote before the arbiter presents a compromise plan, one says. 

"What? That makes no sense," says the other. "The union wants to vote on whether or not to strike before they even see the deal?"

"Maybe if they hear from enough parents, they’ll do right by the kids."

Parents are then asked to send a text, which will allow them to sign a petition.

The ad is a "significant buy that casts a wide net," said Rebeca Nieves Huffman, Illinois state director of Democrats for Education Reform. The ad was produced by an affiliate of the advocacy group, and will run until Sunday on a number of radio stations, including WLS, WBBM, and stations with large numbers of Spanish-speaking and African-American listeners, Huffman says. 

Huffman says the spot is a response to the union's "aggressive posturing."

"It’s disingenuous for the union to have its teachers to vote on something when they don’t know what the proposal is yet," she said. "The CTU is making a beeline towards this process."

The union says it has its own radio ads coming out later in the week, and attacked the group behind it. 

Democrats for Education Reform is "run by millionaire hedge fund operators who want to cut their taxes and make money from their investments in charter schools rather than provide a high quality equitable education for children in our city,” said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin. 

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey also told the Chicago Sun-Times that the ads were an "odious" attempt to "whip up parents to try to use them as a battering ram against what the union is doing." 

The ad is an unprecedented attempt to reach parents directly over teacher contract negotiations, said Barbara Radner, director of the Center for Urban Education at DePaul University. Radner likened the ad to Super PAC commercials that are reshaping elections across the country.

But the ads may not drive parents to text their support, she said.

"I do a lot of workshops with parents, and I know parents don't want a strike," Radner said. "But their kid's teacher is the one they listen to. A majority of parents think teachers are working hard."

Huffman, from Democrats for Education Reform, did not say how many texts the group has received or when they might release the petition.

Would you support a teachers' strike? Post your comments below or sound off on our discussion board!

Read a web article about new technology that empowers CPS parents to be involved in the education process.

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