CHICAGO - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is urging negotiators to come up with a new contract for the city's teachers quickly for the sake of the children.
During a news conference today, Emanuel said negotiations resumed a little before noon.
Emanuel defended the Chicago Public Schools' contract offer to teachers. He says negotiators were close to agreement, but the Chicago Teachers Union chose to go on strike despite that. He called the strike "totally avoidable."
Thousands of teachers walked off the job today in Chicago's first schools strike in 25 years.
Emanuel says one of the unresolved issues is disagreement over the teacher evaluation system. But the mayor says that system was designed by teachers for teachers.
A striking teacher who was picketing outside an elementary school says he had hoped the walkout would be averted. Michael Williams says, "We all want to get back to teaching." But he says wages and classroom conditions need to be improved.
Officials are trying to figure out how to keep 400,000 schoolchildren safe and occupied during the strike. About 140 schools were open for the first half of the day so children who rely on free meals could eat breakfast and lunch.
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