Opening day for Chicago schools remains uncertain

ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

DENNIS CONRAD

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—The Chicago Board of Education approved a new budget Wednesday, but on the day schools originally were scheduled to open students still had no idea when classes would begin.

The budget that would allow schools to open on Sept. 14 relies on concessions rejected Tuesday by the Chicago Teachers Union and hinges on the Legislature’s approval of Mayor Richard Daley’s $300 million borrowing plan.

Democratic legislative leaders criticized the school board’s action.

‘‘It doesn’t do any good for us to pass legislation down here if the two major parties don’t come together and agree,’‘ said Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones, D-Chicago. ‘‘Both sides must give.’‘

After a hour-long meeting with legislative leaders, Edgar suggested the union should be the one making concessions.

‘‘What (the school board) approved was bottomline pretty much what Daley proposed, which I support,’‘ said the Republican governor.

‘‘I do think the teachers union are going to have to make some concessions that they are not willing yet to make. … In order for the schools to open, they are going to have to make that move.’‘

Legislative leaders, who already have balked at elements of the Daley plan, were scheduled to meet again with Edgar at the State Capitol on Thursday to continue talks on how to get Chicago’s 411,000 schoolchildren back in class.

‘‘If we could reach some agreement here, that would set the parameters,’‘ Edgar said. ‘‘The actual negotiations has to occur between the school board and the teachers union.’‘

The Legislature on Thursday also will reconvene a special session on the Chicago school crisis. That comes six days after lawmakers approved a stopgap measure designed to permit schools to open this week without a balanced budget.

‘‘There’s no plan now to present a bill (Thursday),’‘ said House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, indicating the Legislature’s calendar would remain unclear at least until another meeting with Edgar.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said the Chicago Democrat believes the quickest way to solve the crisis is for Edgar to get Republican legislative leaders to drop side issues hampering negotiations.

Senate President James ‘‘Pate’‘ Philip, R-Wood Dale, seeks a new pilot voucher program that would reimburse parents for some of the cost of sending children to private schools.

House Minority Leader Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst, has sought a pilot program to allow for charter schools, under which parents or other groups could set up semiautonomous schools free of at least some state mandates.

‘‘Madigan’s view is, with these and other elements in the bill, there’ll be opposition from both Democrats and Republicans,’‘ said the speaker’s spokesman, Steve Brown.

In approving a new budget, the school board appeared to ignore teachers’ angry rejection of $76 million in concessions and give-backs, including additional costs for health care.

‘‘Once again, I believe the spotlight is back where it should have been at all times—and that is with the requirement that the state Legislature properly fund this district,’‘ said board member Charles Curtis.

Meantime, Jacqueline Gallagher, spokeswoman for the union that represents about 26,000 teachers and 5,000 other school employees, said the union is waiting to hear from the school board as to when bargaining will resume.

‘‘At this point we are not talking strike,’‘ she said. ‘‘What we want is a contract and what we want is a board that will work with us to come up with one that is good and fair.’‘

The school board late Wednesday said it would like to reconvene talks with the teachers’ union Thursday morning.