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Talks resume to end Chicago teachers strike

CHICAGO -- Union leaders representing thousands of striking Chicago public school teachers returned to the negotiating table Saturday with the school district to work out the details of a deal to end a weeklong walkout in one of the nation's largest districts.

Both sides have said they've arrived at an outline to resolve their months-long contract dispute, which came down to two main sticking points: a new teacher evaluation system and union demands that laid-off teachers get preference for new jobs. The dispute in Chicago is being closely watched around the nation because of its implications for other labor disputes at a time when unions have been losing ground.

Saturday's talks were taking place at the offices of union attorney Robert Bloch, who told the Chicago Sun-Times there was still a lot of work to be done, though agreement has been reached on the most contentious issues.

The union hopes to present the wording of a deal to its house of delegates for review Sunday. If they approve it, students could be back in class on Monday.

On his way into the talks, Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey was optimistic that timetable was still possible. "We're hopeful that we can do it but frankly like I said, the devil is in the details of this contract and we want it in writing," he told the Sun-Times. "We're going to go in today and hammer . . . the details."

Out on the streets, hundreds of teachers and their families were streaming toward Chicago's Union Park for a midday rally. The atmosphere was festive, even if a deal had yet to be presented in writing.

In announcing a framework had been achieved, union leaders emphasized Friday that they and their members needed to see it in writing before they would call off the strike.

"They are suspicious, you have to understand," union president Karen Lewis told reporters Friday after a meeting with nearly 800 members of the union's house of delegates. "We have been a little burnt by the [school] board in the past."

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