CHICAGO - The Chicago Teachers Union extended its strike into a second week on Sunday, after significant divisions emerged among union delegates over a deal that only a day before had been described by the union's leader as "a good contract."
The announcement came after nearly 800 union representatives, the House of Delegates, convened for several hours to decide whether to end a strike that has drawn national attention in the debate over teacher evaluations, job security and the length of a school day.
The decision forced 350,000 students in the nation's third-largest school system to begin another week without classes and with no strong indication of when they might resume.
Many Chicagoans had assumed school would start again on Monday, after union leaders and city officials reached the outlines of a deal on Friday, ending what had been days of long and sometimes contentious talks.
But inside the closed-door meeting of the union's House of Delegates on Sunday, opinion was split. Some delegates wanted to accept the deal and return to school immediately, while others said they needed time to digest its details, which they had not known until Sunday's meeting. Still others objected to the new terms of the contract entirely, suggesting that a resolution of this entire chapter may yet be far from reach.
"I think everybody wants to be back in the classroom, but I think everyone is nervous about a bad contract," Kevin Hugh, one of the delegates, said as he left the meeting on this city's South Side, where delegates had decided in a "standing vote" to continue their strike. A clear majority, those present said, wanted to wait. "In the end I think it's wise for members to have a day to review the contract," Mr. Hugh said.
The decision infuriated school system officials, who had advised parents on Friday to be ready to return their children to school on Monday, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has suggested since the teachers began striking a week ago that they ought to return to the classroom even as negotiators finished the contract. Mr. Emanuel said he was now instructing city lawyers to seek a legal injunction to end the strike. He deemed the strike "illegal on two grounds," saying that it was called over issues that teachers are not legally permitted to strike about and that it endangers the health and safety of children.
"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Mr. Emanuel said in a statement. "This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children. Every day our kids are kept out of school is one more day we fail in our mission: to ensure that every child in every community has an education that matches their potential."
Beyond Chicago, the notion that the strike would not, as expected, end immediately could also prove troublesome for President Obama, who has so far stayed neutral in the fight between his former chief of staff and labor, though both are expected to play a crucial role in fund-raising and voter turnout efforts nationwide.
For some parents, the continuing crisis - and the news late Sunday that it would go on - created a crushing problem: How to juggle a second week with alternative child care. "We're spending half of our life trying to figure out what to do with the kids this week," Roger Wilen, a lawyer and parent of three, said on Sunday evening. "This is ridiculous."
Last week Mr. Wilen and his wife had tested nearly every option for their children - finding a baby sitter, working from home, using an alternative school program, even taking the children to work - and were, by this weekend, feeling tested themselves. "We need them in school," he said.
As they had a week ago when the strike began, schools officials said Sunday that they would open 147 schools with nonunion workers as a contingency plan for children with nowhere else to go. Attendance at those alternative programs had been low in recent days, as parents said they felt uncertain about sending their children to schools they did not know, and supervisors they had not met.
Sunday's developments came as a setback to the union's bargaining team, which felt it had secured an agreement its delegates might accept, even if it did not quell every concern voiced at protests across the city over the last week.
"There's all kinds of stuff that they're concerned about," said Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union who had played a key role in negotiating the tentative deal, as she emerged from the meeting with delegates. "This is the deal we got."
The delegates agreed to meet again on Tuesday, Ms. Lewis said, adding that the earliest that schools can open will be Wednesday. Eventually, some 26,000 union members will need to vote on whether to ratify the new contract, but the delegates had been expected to end the strike well before a vote could be completed.
It is unclear whether the tentative agreement merely needs study by union delegates and members, or whether its terms are in more serious jeopardy. All along, the contract fight here has focused on an wide array of issues, including teacher evaluations, job security, pay, benefits and more.
Earlier, negotiators for the schools and for the union had seemed satisfied with the tentative deal they had hashed out. Both sides were claiming victory about its contents.
Leaders from the school system said the most important provisions for changes to the schools - shifts pressed most notably by Mayor Emanuel - lived on in the latest proposal: students here would attend school for more hours and more days a year than before; principals would decide which teachers were hired; and teachers would be evaluated, in part, based on student test scores.
But Ms. Lewis and the union negotiators said their strongest wishes were intact in the proposal they brought to delegates on Sunday. Among their claimed victories: Teacher raises were to be maintained for those who seek additional education and for those with a certain experience level; the schools would agree to hire additional teachers to handle longer school days; and most experienced teachers could not be fired for the first year of the new evaluation system, which would be something of a test-run.
"We believe this is a good contract; however, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our district," Ms. Lewis said, in a release issued on Saturday night.
The proposed contract - a three-year arrangement with an option for a fourth - would have given an average teacher a more than 17 percent raise if it ran all four years, more than had been offered a week ago, the school system said. It was uncertain how the schools were going to pay for raises, which were predicted to cost in the "high $300 million" range at a time when the system has a significant budget deficit, estimated at $1 billion next year. Chicago Public Schools officials say an average teacher here makes $76,000 a year, though union officials have said the figure is lower.
On Sunday, as David Stieber, a delegate, left the meeting, he said he wanted more time to examine the contract in all its detail. He said he also wanted other teachers at his school on the city's South Side to have a chance to look, and see what they thought.
Of the decision to continue the strike, he said, "We're showing you an example of true democracy, and that means talking to everybody - even if that takes a little extra time." ------------------------------------- A version of this article appeared in print on September 17, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Chicago Teachers Extend Strike to Review Deal. ************************************************ -- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University 625 Wham Drive Mail Code 4610 Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O] (618) 457-8903 [H] Fax: (618) 453-4244 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org