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Teachers Strike In Lake Forest: Chicago Suburb Educators Demand 'Fair Contract,' Classes Canceled

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As Chicago's teachers enter their third day of protests, neighboring Lake Forest educators took to their own picket lines after contract negotiations with the district failed late Tuesday.

The strike marks the first in the district's history. Classes have been canceled, leaving about 1,700 students out of school as the district's 150 teachers picket outside Lake Forest High School with signs reading, "Lake Forest Teachers for a Fair Contract."

Lake Forest Education Association spokesperson Chuck Grass says the union and district could not reach a salary agreement, as teachers disagreed with a two-tiered salary structure recommended by the board that would have new teachers earn less over time than those under the current payment structure, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The board is offering to pay tiered salary increases: 2.6 percent in fiscal year 2013, 3.4 percent in 2014 and 3.4 percent in 2015. The union seeks increases of 5.6 percent, 6.5 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, to compensate for last year's pay freeze, the Tribune reports. Board officials say the union's request is more than double the Consumer Price Index.

"Last year, we had a one-year agreement. We took a salary freeze. Again, we understand the economic climate. There's things happening and a downturn in the economy, and we respect that, so we know that," Grass told WLS-TV. "[We are] hoping that this year when we came back to the bargaining table that the school board would recognize we made that sacrifice."

Grass tells CBS Chicago that contract talks also failed over general salary and benefits.

The board is very disappointed,” officials said in a statement. “We feel that leaving negotiations until the final hour is unfair to our students, parents and community… The Board remains committed to offering highly competitive salary and benefit packages to attract and retain employees, while remaining fiscally responsible to the community it serves.”

Parents are split on the protest, as some told CBS Chicago that they support the educators, while others say the teachers' expectations are unrealistic in the current market.

"This is all going to fall back on the taxpayers in this town," Brad Kunde of Lake Forest told the Tribune. "I, for one, feel I pay enough."

The Chicago suburb's move to strike comes after a number of Illinois teachers' unions had filed intent-to-strike notices this year.

And while protests in Lake Forest coincide with the strikes in Chicago, the predominant issues on the table for the two converge less than their timing. As Lake Forest's educators are largely fighting for benefits and an agreeable pay structure, the issues at the forefront of Chicago's strike emphasize teacher evaluations and a principal's role in selecting teachers.

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