CHICAGO — Eight hundred teachers’ union delegates are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to end a public schools strike, now in its seventh day, that has left 350,000 students without classes and the city calling the walkout a public danger.
Though a tentative settlement was reached between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools negotiators, it is anyone’s call whether the deal will be accepted Tuesday afternoon by union delegates who chose not to do so when they were first presented with the plan on Sunday night.
In interviews, delegates’ views on the proposal seemed to range widely and gave few hints whether Karen Lewis, the union’s president, had gathered a consensus behind the deal, which she had earlier deemed good if imperfect.
Some said they wanted to get back to school right away, while others said they needed more time to study provisions of the contract. Some said they simply did not like what they saw on issues like pay, evaluations and a wellness program.
“It wasn’t ready,” said James Dongas, a delegate at Lane Tech College Prep high school, who described the tentative deal as premature. “It wasn’t cooked.”
As promised, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration on Monday sought a preliminary injunction to end the strike, maintaining that state law “expressly prohibits” teachers from striking over noneconomic issues, including layoffs and teacher evaluations. A judge was expected to hear the case on Wednesday morning if schools had not reopened.
Few have as much stake in what comes next — a quick reopening of schools by Wednesday or a far longer, grimmer battle — as Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“This is the first issue that’s gone out of control for Rahm,” said Don Rose, a longtime political strategist in Chicago. “And it’s the first issue where he’s really coming up on the wrong side of the polls. He made this personal, and now it’s his.”
But if teachers continue the strike beyond Tuesday, they risk losing support from students’ families, many of whom expressed patience in the first week of the strike but were sounding increasingly exasperated heading into Week 2. Fading union support would potentially benefit Mr. Emanuel, political observers here said, but all agreed that no one would win politically if the strike dragged on.
Mr. Emanuel has his enthusiastic backers in his push for more days and hours in school and for teacher evaluations that consider student test scores, but unions beyond those that represent teachers are irked at Mr. Emanuel’s aggressive handling of the situation. The anger is personal, not aimed generically at some school board or City Hall but squarely at him. When he took his daughter to a Bruce Springsteen concert at Wrigley Field this month, a man approached them and started to speak to the girl. “Your father is,” he began, finishing the sentence with an expletive.
In an interview, Mr. Emanuel was unapologetic for his tactics, unwilling to name anything particular he wished he had done differently, and defiant toward his critics. His whole point, he said, again and again, was to “get the kids of Chicago to the starting line with other kids.”
“I did not come to the office of mayor at this point in my career so I get the glory of running for re-election,” he said. “I came here to use this office to bring change. And I want to make sure that the kids of the city of Chicago get the opportunity to have reading and writing, not choose between them.”
Even before Mr. Emanuel took office in 2011, he had ticked off ways he would change the schools: more hours, more days, better outcomes. But if the philosophy was already counter to what some teachers — fearing public school closings and the arrival of charter schools — had hoped to hear, Mr. Emanuel did it with flourish.
He once said that Chicago’s children were getting “the shaft.” He pressed for legislation that would, among other things, require the union to have a higher percentage of support from members to allow a strike. He backed a plan that rescinded a promised raise to teachers. And along the picket lines here, teachers list the affronts, one by one.
Those around Mr. Emanuel say he has been deeply upset over the strike and has kept tabs on contract talks that went on for days with a nearly constant run of e-mails and calls to a top aide who took part in them.
Still, he has also seemed serene about the city’s position. Mr. Emanuel said his wife, Amy, told him one morning as he left for work last week that having seen him through numerous ordeals, she had never seen him look calmer.
“This system needed a major push toward reform,” he said. “It couldn’t be done incrementally.”
Motoko Rich contributed reporting from Sebring, Ohio.