State leaders, Edgar report no agreement on school talks



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—With no agreement but much bickering, Gov. Jim Edgar and legislative leaders ended an almost three-hour round of talks Thursday aimed at keeping Chicago’s schools from closing next week.

Democrats accused Republicans of trying to bust the union while Edgar and his GOP allies portrayed the Democrats as enemies of reform badly needed by the state’s largest school district.

‘‘Right now, it doesn’t look good,’‘ Edgar said, when asked about the prospects of classrooms opening Monday for Chicago’s 411,000 schoolchildren.

‘‘I’m going to keep them here and we’re going to keep working on this,’‘ he said. ‘‘We don’t have any more time to put this off. It’s time for compromise.’‘

Another negotiating session was scheduled for Friday, with legislative leaders preparing for the possibility of a special session on Sunday if they reach an agreement.

While Edgar was trying to strike a leadership pose just two days after announcing his bid for re-election, House Speaker Michael Madigan said the governor was falling far short.

‘‘To date, the governor’s leadership has been limp at best,’‘ said the Chicago Democrat.

House Minority Leader Lee Daniels blamed the failure to reach an agreement on Madigan and Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones.

‘‘I don’t think the Democrats from Chicago … are negotiating in good faith,’‘ the Elmhurst Republican said.

‘‘They continue to spew the Chicago Teacher Union line with no compromise whatsoever, and I think the people of Chicago ought to be fed up with it,’‘ he said.

Entering the talks, Daniels said Republicans would settle for nothing less than the compromise plan Edgar endorsed two weeks ago to erase the school district’s $300 million budget gap.

That plan would increase the amount of borrowing backed by local real estate taxes to avoid dipping into teacher pension funds.

It would also, through state law taking effect in 1995, eliminate teachers who have lost their jobs but remain paid, give principals more power and make it easier for individual schools to adopt work rule changes.

The Democratic leaders, noting the teachers union and Chicago Board of Education recently reached a two-year contract agreement on those issues, say they don’t want to dictate to the unions what they should face afterward.

They insist Edgar needs to muster GOP votes to adopt the plan agreed to by the teachers and school board.

‘‘The Republican agenda is to break a union, straight up,’‘ Madigan said.

‘‘We are trying to keep 400,000 children in school—not try to force the union to accept something that would trigger them to take a (strike) vote and walk out,’‘ added Jones.

Daniels called the union-busting charge ‘‘baloney.’‘

‘‘Suburban voters send state dollars into Chicago,’‘ he said of Republicans’ interest in Chicago schools. ‘‘They want a fair return on those state dollars.’‘

The leaders and Edgar face a Sunday deadline. The federal courts gave the Chicago School Board permission to operate through Friday, giving lawmakers until Sunday to reach an agreement or interrupt children’s educations.

The court ruling let the schools stay open without the balanced budget mandated by state law.